Elk—a relatively common sight in the western Lower 48—were also prevalent in Alaska 10,000 years ago but disappeared during the last ice age. In the mid-1920s, Alaskans decided that elk would be an attractive addition to the territory’s big-game species, and a handful of Roosevelt elk were imported from Washington State.
After a few years of island-hopping, the cervids (deer) were finally transplanted to their permanent home, Afognak Island off the north coast of Kodiak, and from there they apparently swam to Raspberry Island and Kodiak. Though the country was rugged—wet, windy, and choked with alder—the elk thrived in their new home, and some grew to 1,000 pounds.
Within only 20 years (1950), 27 bulls were culled from the herd by resident hunters. Hunting continued up until the late 1960s, when a series of severe winters decimated the herds. Ten years of protection and mild winters allowed the herds to regenerate; today, 1,200 elk live on Afognak and Raspberry Islands, with a second small population on Etolin Island near Petersburg.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition