STONEY FORK, Ky. —Bringing the majestic elk back to the Appalachian hills and hollows where they once roamed has become a nightmare.
Rogues from a herd that numbers in the thousands are trampling gardens, flattening fences and marring yards with manure in the southeastern Kentucky town of Stoney Fork. They have made the roads dangerous, causing dozens of car crashes.
Some residents have had enough. With the state's OK, they headed out into the woods to kill elk. They killed 13 of them.
"They're dangerous. Somebody's going to get killed if they don't do something," said Stoney Fork resident Nelson Short, 73.
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Short joined about 35 neighbors in a hunt one recent day. With a black 7mm Ruger slung across his shoulder, he boasted that one he caught trespassing on his land wound up in his freezer, sliced into steaks.
"When they started bringing them in here, I thought it would be a good thing," Short said. "It wasn't."
Elk had disappeared from Kentucky around the time of the Civil War, mainly because of overhunting.
Wildlife managers began bringing elk into the state in 1997 from several western states in what was heralded as an important ecology and tourism program. A group of about 1,500 elk released into 14 counties has grown to more than 10,000.
Officials expected the elk would thrive on the man-made meadows left behind after coal companies removed towering ridgetops in a controversial mining method known as mountaintop removal. Some of the elk, however, preferred the tender sprouts growing in the yards couched between steep mountains along a state road that passes through Stoney Fork.
The state has received hundreds of complaints about elk intruding on neighborhoods.