Natural History

Wild elk lived in Virginia, from the Richmond region to the western border, during the 1600s, but they vanished by 1855, a result of overhunting and loss of winter grazing areas. Around 1900, elk appeared in the Commonwealth again when the owner of Bellwood Farms, located south of Richmond, introduced a pair to his property and successfully produced a herd in captivity. The herd still lives at the site which is now the Defense Supply Center Richmond, operated by the U.S. Army. Meanwhile, a wild elk population is resurging in southwestern Virginia, thanks to conservation efforts by Kentucky and Virginia.

Due to limited space, the U.S. Army, along with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), make efforts to keep the herd size small at the Defense Supply Center Richmond, moving some animals to other preserves and qualified animal care organizations. While the relocation of cervids (members of the deer and elk family) in Virginia is strictly regulated, Maymont was approved by VDGIF as one of the few places in the Commonwealth to keep elk in an area for public viewing and education.