BUCKHORN — In December of 1997, seven elk were released in Southeastern Kentucky, with hopes that a thriving population could be built. Today there are about 10 thousand elk in Kentucky’s 16-county Elk Zone, which includes Perry County. On May 18, a ceremony was held at the Buckhorn Lodge to honor all of the efforts that have been placed into establishing one of the nation’s most renowned habitats for one of nature’s most enchanting creatures. The Commissioner of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, Gregory Johnson, dedicated a superb Elk Mount to Buckhorn State Park, before a large crowd.
“This elk mount is appropriately located here at Buckhorn Lake State Park and symbolizes the magnificent relationship between the Eastern Kentucky elk herd and the people of East Kentucky who have adopted the herd as a heritage of their region,” said Johnson.
Justin Tinsley of Central Kentucky Taxidermy created the mount from an elk that was donated by Hurley Combs of Lost Mountain Outfitters. The mount is on display in the lobby of the Buckhorn Lodge.
In less than 20 years, elk have become a major addition to Eastern Kentucky’s economy. The elk herd living in Kentucky today is larger than all other herds east of the Rocky Mountains combined. The 16-county Elk Zone, which Perry County is part of, consists of an area that is larger than Yellowstone National Park. Kentucky’s herd is clean, meaning that many of the diseases that are creeping through elk populations in other states are not found in Kentucky.
The money generated by elk hunters and elk watchers visiting the region equals millions of dollars each year. The Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park is open all year. More info can be found at the park’s website; parks.ky.gov/parks/resortparks/buckhorn-lake.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.