VANSANT, Va. (AP) — -

Virginia's elk restoration project is preparing to enter its next phase.

The final group of about 45 elk from Kentucky is scheduled to arrive in Buchanan County this week. They will join 25 to 30 elk brought earlier to a reclaimed strip mine in the War Fork area.

Regional wildlife manager Allen Boyton with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says the last group includes 14 bulls and 31 cows. Sixteen of the cows are pregnant.

Boyton tells the Bristol Herald Courier ( ) that the department will now shift to managing the elk population.

The elk are the Rocky Mountain version of a native species that was last seen in Virginia around the time of the Civil War. The pilot program aims to restore the animals to Virginia.