Richmond, Va. –
Nearly 20 years ago, male and female elk from the Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia’s herd took on the honorable task of helping repopulate captive herds throughout the Commonwealth.
“Historically, our elk helped populate the elk displays at various Virginia wildlife parks,” said Jimmy Parrish, chief, Environmental Management Division, DLA Installation Management Richmond.
However, the transfers were ended by the implementation of more stringent permitting requirements from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and by the spread of chronic wasting disease, the deer family version of the mad cow disease, throughout Virginia.
“Our elk can now only be transferred between the four locations that maintain valid elk exhibitor permits and that can prove the health and well-being of their elk,” said Valerie Dingle Parham, an environmental protection specialist within the Environmental Office. “Those four sites are Maymont Park in Richmond, the Richmond Zoo, the Virginia Safari Park located near the Natural Bridge and the DSCR. However, elk normally live to be 20 years old in captivity, so the opportunity for movement does not come up very often.”
Maymont Park wanted to expand its elk population, which park officials believe can only be helped with the introduction of new genetic stock. Parham said the move has been in the planning process for months. Formal transfer agreements had to be signed by both parties and coordinated with DGIF and large-animal veterinarians from both organizations had to jointly assist and oversee lab tests to prove that both animals were free of any illness.
On April 16, the opportunity to make a transfer took place when a young male and a young female were moved from DSCR to Maymont Park. Additionally, two more females were transferred on May 7. The elk were loaded into a trailer and sedated for the journey to downtown Richmond.
DLA Installation Management Richmond’s Installation Operations Division employees Don Matre, Scott Moe and Robert Hundley, who are responsible for the daily care and feeding of the elk herd, took on the task of herding the two travelers into individual holding pens.
Elk are skittish by nature, Parrish explained, so despite the excitement of the transfer, the operation was kept below the radar “with very few observers,” he said. Regardless, Matre said the transfer is a win-win for both organizations. “The many visitors to Maymont Park, especially the children, get to enjoy the majestic beauty of the elk, and the DLA herd is resized to become more manageable.”