Following more than 22 years of elk management and reintroduction efforts, 2018 will mark Wisconsin's first-ever managed elk hunt.
This week at the state Natural Resources Board meeting, a DNR ecologist will outline that hunt. Elk died out in Wisconsin in the 1800's due to over-hunting and a rapid decline in habitat. Historic records show elk once inhabited at least 50 of the state's 72 counties. An attempt at bringing elk back to the state in the 1930s failed because of poaching and the last four elk were reportedly killed in 1948.
The DNR's Kevin Wallenfang says the herd growth is a success story...
"....Wisconsin has never had a managed elk hunt before so this is an historic event. It's really the culmination of a couple of decades of elk reintroduction in the state. We consider this a great conservation success story and we anticipate our elk population is going to grow over the years and we're going to offer more hunting opportunity, but you have to start somewhere. This validates to a lot of people what we've been doing for the last 20+ years..."
The area of the planned hunt is within the Clam Lake elk range of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland, and Price counties.
Original restoration efforts occurred within this range with the release of 25 elk from Michigan in 1995. This northern herd is projected to reach a population level of over 200 animals this year, including a high proportion of bulls. Ten tags will be made available for a bull-only hunt this fall. Four tags will be awarded to Wisconsin residents through a random drawing. One additional tag will be awarded to a Wisconsin resident through a raffle conducted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Consistent with federal court rulings, the elk harvest quota is being shared equally with six Wisconsin Chippewa tribes.