The elk restoration program in southwest Virginia took a disturbing turn when three men were arrested for poaching. There are currently three men facing major charges and jail time due to poaching, but many believe that the charges and penalties are not harsh enough considering the crime they committed.
Over one million dollars has been used toward reintroducing the elk to the War Fork area Buchanan County in 2012. The elk were killed in Wise County, Buchanan County, and Lee County, which is illegal. Police believe the crime should be pushed to the harshest punishments possible.
Leon Boyd, a Buchanan County native remembers a time before the wildlife restoration efforts were in effect, and wildlife wasn’t as plentiful. Now Leon believes the efforts are paying off, and the restoration efforts are amazing. Over 200 elk now roam the area due to years and years of hard work in restoring and protecting them.
Several months ago, conservation officer Sgt. Jamie Davis started an investigation after a bulk elk was found headless and abandoned. Three men are now being charged with the death of two adult elk, and two elk calves. The charges being held against Nelson Drummond include the killing of elk, shooting them from a vehicle and using lights to kill them as well. Joseph and Derek Deel are being charged with the death of a deer and assisting with killing the animals with lights as well. All three men are facing jail-time and a fine up to twenty-five thousand dollars.
Investigators have used video surveillance, but the real help has come from area sportsman. Hunters do not just kill animals and leave them laying around. The men that killed these animals were not hunters, they were simply poachers.
The head of the Southwest Virginia Coalfield chapter has helped donated over $300,000 to get 71 elk in the area – each elk has a price tag of $15,000. Boyd, the head of the chapter claims that the current replacement fees do not cover the efforts or money used in getting the animals into the area.
He has never felt that the fines and penalties were harsh enough for people that felt the need to kill and leave the elk laying around to waste. He does not understand the value of just killing animals for pleasure. Replacing one of these animals can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $7,500 for a bull with 2 points or more.
The current goal is for the elk to grow in the herd of 400 or more. The second goal is to determine a lottery system that will allow hunters to manage a healthy number of elk in the area.