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“HEY CHESTER, you’ve got to check out what I got on my game camera.”
An old Little League teammate approached me in a grocery store with a big smile on his face and an amazing photo.
A few minutes earlier, a five-by-five bull elk in velvet walked across his Moultrie Mobile Cam, which sent the picture to his phone.
“There are a fair number of elk around the lease that escaped a few years ago from a high-fenced ranch. The lease rule is we do a drawing for one bull a year and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime draw. We’re trying to manage them so their herds will increase,” he said.
That photo, along with others he showed me of other elk on the lease confirmed what I had known about this area, that had both elk and a few red stags reported over about a 10-year period.
Chances are these elk will all get killed. But with more conservation-minded hunters in the woods than ever, it’s possible a small population could thrive. We have reported previously about one herd living in the southwestern tier of the Edward’s Plateau that seems to be on the rise.
Officials with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have been involved in helping restore elk to the Appalachians and Smokies and other areas of their range East of the Mississippi.
Elk were native in the Pineywoods and it is possible they could be reestablished here. There is admittedly better habitat in the Eastern United States than in East Texas including abandoned strip mine land that has been at the centerpiece of the restoration.
But could elk ever return at a level to East Texas that would see them in at least numbers high enough to do a few draw hunts a year?
I do not think it will happen because Texas is a private lands state and elk are not so popular with some cattle ranchers due to damage done to fences etc. I also just don’t see it as a priority since elk are not even considered a game animal in Texas although they are native.
But just as axis have expanded in the Hill Country and aoudad in the Trans Pecos, it is possible some elk could regain a tiny foothold in certain areas of the Pineywoods if they were left alone or at least managed by private landowners.
Recently officials from the Big Thicket National Preserve put out a bulletin that axis deer had been established in one unit.
If axis, why not elk?
I would love to see elk back in East Texas at least from a wildlife viewing perspective.
How would you feel about elk in East Texas? Have you ever seen one? If you have photos of elk in the region email [email protected].
We would love to see the photos and hear what you think about elk not only in East Texas but across the state.
Although they don’t have the respect of a game animal legally, they are as native as whitetail and are one of the most majestic animals on the planet.
—story by AUTHOR