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News | Feb. 3, 2020

Bellwood Elk get a visit from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs

On a sunny, but slightly blistery January day, the herd of elk roaming inside the gated area on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, stared curiously at a man on the other side of the fence, who was holding a set of binoculars, pointing and scribbling something on a notepad.


Before I continue, let me give you a quick history lesson about the Bellwood Elk.


James Bellwood, a successful Canadian farmer, brought a pair of Wapiti elk to the land, that is now part of DSCR in 1887. The Bellwood family ended up selling the land to the Army in 1941. This sale included a “gentleman’s agreement,” which the Army agreed to maintain the growing elk herd. The Army kept its word and the elk that reside on Center today are offspring of that original herd.


Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s continue on with the story.


David Garst, district wildlife biologist for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, was that man on the other side of the fence. He was there doing an annual count of the number of elk and inspecting them for Chronic Wasting Disease.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CWD is a rare progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose. It has been found in some areas of North America, including Canada and the United States, Norway and South Korea. It may take over a year before an infected animal develops symptoms, which can include drastic weight loss (wasting), stumbling, listlessness and other neurologic symptoms. CWD can affect animals of all ages and some infected animals may die without ever developing the disease. CWD is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.


To put your minds at ease, there has never been an issue with the Bellwood elk having CWD.


Management and care of the elk is overseen by Defense Logistics Agency Installation Management Richmond.


Terrence Taylor, an environmental protection specialist within Installation Management’s Environmental Management Division, accompanied Garst on the inspection


He said DSCR is permitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia to have 22 elk. He said they are currently at 20. He also said the outcome was positive with all elk tagged, visibly healthy and no other discrepancies.


When Garst and Taylor left, life went back to normal for the oldest tenants on Center.