Wisconsin DNR Enlisting the Public’s Help to Monitor Elk Herds
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is enlisting the public's help to monitor elk herds during this fall's breeding season. The season lasts from September to October, with much of the action occurring within the established Clam Lake and Black River Elk Ranges. However, younger bull elk may roam outside the areas in search of unoccupied territory.
Elk sightings are expected not only within the primary ranges but also in counties like Ashland, Bayfield, Price, Rusk, and Sawyer in northern Wisconsin, and Jackson County in west-central Wisconsin. The DNR encourages individuals spotting elk beyond these ranges to report their sightings using the DNR's large mammal observation form. Photos are valuable additions, and any distinctive features like ear tags or GPS collars should be noted when reporting.
“Many elk are on the move this time of year. Tracking the movements of these animals is an important, yet difficult part of our work. The reports we get from the public are a huge help towards these efforts.”
-Christina Kizewski, DNR Wildlife Biologist.
Once prevalent across North America, elk were eradicated from Wisconsin due to unregulated hunting in the 1880s. Collaborative efforts involving the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Ho-Chunk Nation, Ojibwe Tribes, and other partners successfully reintroduced elk to the Northern Elk Range near Clam Lake in 1995 and the Central Elk Range near Black River Falls in 2015 and 2016.
In addition, Elk from Kentucky supplemented the northern herd in 2017 and 2019. By the end of the 2023 calving season, Wisconsin's elk population is projected to number around 515. That number is divided between the central and northern herds, with 160 and 355 elk respectively.
In Wisconsin, elk share a habitat with white-tailed deer and moose. They are larger than deer and about two-thirds the size of moose. Adult elk have tan coloring, a dark mane, a distinct rump patch, and are sexually dimorphic in size. Adult females weigh 500-650 pounds, while males weigh 600-900 pounds. Newborn Wisconsin elk calves weigh 35-40 pounds and have white spots for camouflage. Elk exhibit social behavior and communicate through various vocalizations. Overall, elk are a remarkable species to have in Wisconsin's wildlife landscape. For more in-depth information about elk reintroduction and management, the DNR's Elk In Wisconsin webpage serves as a valuable resource.
Want to see an Elk in Wisconsin?
For the best chance of viewing elk safely, keep in mind these recommendations from the Wisconsin DNR.
- Start early in the morning and stay into the evening. Elk are most active during these periods of the day.
- Go during the late fall/early winter and spring. These are the best timeframes to see elk.
- Drive slow, use your flashers, only pull over in safe areas, and stay in your vehicle.
- Try and try again. Don't forget to take pictures when you do succeed.
- Do not feed, call to, or approach any wildlife. It is illegal to bait or feed elk in Wisconsin.
- Do not honk at wildlife or block traffic.
- Stay in your vehicle and do not trespass without speaking to the landowner first.