After reviewing all available information on Wisconsin elk, state wildlife officials and several key partners recently agreed that the elk herd has not grown to a sufficient size to support a hunt this year.
The Department of Natural Resources recently hired a deer and elk research scientist who provided a full analysis of 18 years of elk information, from their reintroduction to now, to develop a long-term population estimating model. This model, along with input from other wildlife experts, tribes, and partner groups led to the decision to postpone Wisconsin’s first elk hunt.
“There are many positive and exciting things happening in the elk program that we believe will help the herd continue to increase,” Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist who heads up the elk management program for the DNR, said. “The long-term success of the herd is the priority. But we realize this decision will be a disappointment for those hopeful that this would be the year for the first hunt.”
According to state law, a Wisconsin elk hunt may not take place until the population surpasses 200 animals. Located near Clam Lake in Ashland County, the herd has seen moderate growth since the release of 25 elk in 1995.
“While we’d have liked to see a hunt finally happen, this does not affect other plans to help the herd prosper, which may include bringing in additional elk,” Wallenfang said. “We’ve already seen the many benefits that having elk creates, and hope to move ahead with expanding those benefits.”
As part of a recently revised elk management plan, the Natural Resources Board approved recommendations to bring additional wild animals into Wisconsin from a willing donor state. Those plans received strong public support and, if they come to fruition will help accelerate herd growth, spread animals across a wider area of their range, and start a second herd in Jackson County near Black River Falls.
“There remains strong public support for establishing wild elk in Wisconsin and our partners remain committed to the long-term success of the elk reintroduction program,” Wallenfang said.
For more information on elk in Wisconsin, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “elk” or contact Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist at 608-261-7589.