When we say walk on the wild side, we’re referencing the beauty that is seen in our natural surroundings and the wildlife within it. Most notable of the wildlife we share this land with is the elk population, which was restored after public interest in undertaking an elk restoration program in the state was expressed to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. In 2010, planning for the reintroduction of elk into Buchanan County, Va., started after an almost 100-year absence. Elk were historically found throughout eastern North America, including Virginia. However, factors such as habitat loss and unregulated hunting caused elk to become virtually extinct within eastern North America by the late 1800’s. Attempts at elk restoration in eastern states during the early to mid-1900s often failed due to a lack of suitable habitat and knowledge of elk ecology.

In Virginia, working with the coal and gas industries on reclaimed surface sites in 2012, the population was reintroduced and has thrived. The herd now numbers around 200 and tours are offered seasonally. Check with Southern Gap Outdoor Adventure and the Breaks Interstate Park for tour dates. Reservations are required.

Elk hunting is currently prohibited. Deer and turkey hunting are allowed in season.