ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Here is a round-up of the latest outdoor news from across the region.

Elk Hunt Announcement

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has announced that a limited elk hunt will be held in October. Permits for the hunt will be granted by lottery. Only five licenses will be issued. Applications for the elk hunt lottery can be made at the DWR website.

Virginia has re-established an elk herd in far western Virginia. The herd can be found in the Virginia Elk Management Zone in Buchanan, Wise, and Dickinson Counties. Elk numbers are growing, and the DWR says limited hunting is a good way to manage the herd.

The first state-sanctioned elk hunt in the fall of 2022 resulted in six animals being harvested.

Hellbender Alert

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) wants you to be on the lookout for hellbenders and mudpuppies. Both are large aquatic salamander species. Their numbers have been on the decline, and they are vital to stream ecosystems.

An endangered hellbender salamander (Photo: U.S. National Park Service)

The WVDNR is launching what it calls a citizen science survey to help identify streams where hellbenders and mudpuppies call home. People who observe the animals are asked to take a survey online at the WVDNR website. The data collected will help wildlife managers track hellbender movement so they can better manage numbers to save the species.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em!

There is an effort underway in the Virginia General Assembly to expand Virginia’s commercial blue catfish industry. Bills proposed in the House and the Senate would provide grants to expand the fishery, and to help communities set up processing businesses.

In addition to creating jobs and business opportunities, the sponsors of the bills say harvested blue catfish could be used as an inexpensive source of protein for Virginia schools, colleges, hospitals, and prisons.

A blue cat taken from the James River (Photo: Capt. Adam Cook/Nautical Pride Sportfishing)

Blue catfish are not native to Virginia, but they have established themselves in the James River after being stocked there by the commonwealth decades ago. A trophy fishery exists on the James, though there have been calls by conservation and fisheries groups for the commonwealth to better manage blue cat numbers, which have exploded.