State officials reviewing Bell County program to combat elk problem

By Angela Sparkman | 

STONEY FORK, Ky. (WYMT) - People in one part of Bell County say elk have destroyed gardens and caused car crashes. A Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife pilot program that allowed them to shoot the elk is being re-evaluated.

Some landowners tell WYMT they hope no changes are made.

Dan Elliott is glad elk are back in Bell County. "I love it," he said.

But the elk have caused problems on his property.

"I planted fourteen red oaks. They got about an inch and a half, three inches in diameter, and they tore the tops of them out," said Elliott.

Bell County officials say elk have damaged other property. Several years ago, elk were also involved in car crashes on Route 221.

"We're aware elk can be a great resource but they can also be a nuisance in certain areas," said Tina Brunjes with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

To combat the problem, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife started a three year pilot program in Stoney Fork two years ago. It allows landowners to shoot elk that are causing damage. Then the landowners must report the shooting to Fish and Wildlife immediately. There is also a two week elk hunt for the landowners. Now state officials are evaluating whether to keep the program once the three years is over.

"We feel like it's been a very successful project. Now that we're about to come to the end of it, it's time to evaluate what we've done, how it's worked," said Brunjes.

People who live in the area say since the pilot program started, the area has fewer problems with elk and they believe the area is safer. County officials report no elk-related car crashes recently.

Biologists are scheduling meetings with landowners in the Stoney Fork area to talk about the problems.

State officials say a decision on the pilot program could come in November.

The two week hunt is scheduled to start later this month.

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