The reintroduction of elk to parts of Kentucky is one of the better wildlife success stories.
Elk are native to the Bluegrass State, but had been eradicated by hunters and westward settlers looking for land and food back in the late 1800s. The area remained without one of nature’s most majestic creatures until 1997, when the Kentucky Elk Restoration efforts began.
The organization has brought in 1,541 elk from partnering agencies in 6 western states (Arizona, Kansas, North Dakota, Oregon, and Utah) in a scientific and strategic manor, allowing the creatures to reacclimate to their historical range and allow researchers to document completely the health and stability of the population and environment.
The program has been a total success, with an estimated herd size of 15,876, the largest of any state east of the Mississippi.
Of course, hunting and the revenues associated with it were a main factor when the project was initially being considered. The region was and still is recovering from the fallout of the coal industry, which authorities were hoping to at least slightly offset with the new industry of elk hunting.
And where there’s hunting, there’s Steve Rinella, host of MeatEater and all around cool guy.
In a video posted to MeatEater’s YouTube channel, Steve shows us his first ever encounter with one of these Kentucky elk.
He was in the middle of a talk about the difference in scent of where elks are and where they were, when off to his right he suddenly notices a young bull staring at him.
He handles it like the expert he is, but the excitement and even bit of nerves he shows prove that seeing these creatures up close is an experience that cannot be replicated.
Hats off to Steve for letting us in on this cool moment, and an even bigger tip of the cap to the Kentucky Elk Restoration project.
Keep up the good work.