Op-Ed

Webster: Man vs. elk, the rematch

Elk, reintroduced to Kentucky with the help of the coal industry, have expanded their range far beyond reclaimed strip-mine sites.
Elk, reintroduced to Kentucky with the help of the coal industry, have expanded their range far beyond reclaimed strip-mine sites.

After touring her stately old Henry County farm house, the Historical Society asked my Aunt Alma how long that house had been there.

"A right smart while" was all they could ever get out of her. The Pleistocene epoch was a short one as epochs go, but still was a right smart while and a right smart while back.

For those stuck on epochsy, it is an interesting age because man appeared on Earth, and we all know what crap that generated. The Sahara may — and I say may because I am not for sure— have been under water then.

The good ol' Pleistocene contained the thousands of years of the Ice Age during which glaciers advanced and retreated across vast areas of North America and Europe, which got their mountaintops removed, even before the invention of the bulldozer. And as you can see, they were able to get over it, after the several thousands of years it takes soil to re-form.

Running south from those glaciers, to go back home in the north when they retreated, elk may have come as far south as Kentucky, where they soon realized that large mammals need to be in a place from which they can migrate readily or they will soon be extinct, and need not to be where man can wage war on them.

So we had to bring the elk back in trucks, and the war between humans and elk is inevitable.

The elk didn't ask to be taken out of where some deep migratory, self-defense instinct had put them. But any elk, thinking just for itself and not for the good of its species, would pick getting fat, getting to breed a lot and having no lawful natural predators over staying back out west with the herd where food is scarce but where you can run from a glacier or a human without going through subdivisions.

Second, elk are magnificent creatures who didn't deserve to become the symbol of and partner with the ignorance which turns large uncontrollable creatures, the enemies of fence and farm, loose in a region which, as a matter of food or famine, must remain a place where you can produce your own food. Some vegetables to eat with the elk.

Coal didn't ask to be anybody's economy and neither do elk. What in the world are they talking about? Bringing tourists in here to clog up the highways to visit a strip job and sprinkle the elk urine they have bought at the stand and be real quiet for hours and see if one bugles, or is preoccupied and unviewable, eating up the garden of a widow.

Antler points did not ask to scratch the backs of the political/mineral cabal, but are unwittingly providing an argument for the cabal to make to dimwits about how useful all those destroyed ex-mountains can be for habitat for hungry large mammals who like sweet corn and who prefer white half-runners to Kentucky Wonders.

But you can maybe some day go on a strip job and "take" an elk. That is short for taking the life of an elk. Get used to taking them. We will have to join together someday to battle the elk. They will be too fat then from the labor of farmers to fit back in the trucks. They cannot run. Neither can we. It will be a battle to the end.

Wapiti vs. Hillbilly. I hope we beat the Pleistocene right out of them.

Larry Webster is a Pikeville attorney.

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