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Photo Captures First Confirmed Elk in U.P. Since 1800s; May Be From Distant Wisconsin Herd

Rob Dunstone

Wildlife biologists in Michigan have confirmed the first sighting of an elk in the Upper Peninsula since the late 1800s.

The bull elk was photographed in Menominee County, not far from the Wisconsin border, and could have come from a Wisconsin herd more than 200 miles away.

“We started getting reports around June 6 or so. People in the area had sighted a young bull elk. This was later confirmed with photographs from one of the people that had seen it,” said Michigan DNR deputy public information officer John Pepin.

Some reports say a cow elk was accompanying the bull elk.

Elk disappeared from Michigan and Wisconsin in the late 1800s. But in 1995, wild elk started being reintroduced into two herds in Wisconsin.

An ear tag in the photograph indicates this elk might be from the Black River herd in Wisconsin, which is based in distant Jackson County.

“This is based on their knowledge of some of the Black River elk being reported outside of their typical range over the past couple of months,” said Michigan DNR wildlife biologist Karen Sexton. “It is also based on the color, style and placement of ear tag reported, along with the estimated age of the animal gathered from public reports and photos. We should be able to confirm the origin once we have an accurate report of the ear tag number.”

Pepin said the Michigan DNR is looking forward to finding out more.

“If this is indeed a wild elk or two wild elk that are now moved into the Upper Peninsula from Wisconsin, that would be certainly something that would be exciting and interesting for folks in both states,” he said.

Wisconsin’s Black River herd has about 80 elk, while the Clam Lake herd, based around Sawyer County, has around 250.

The Michigan DNR is asking people in the area to call if they see or photograph the elk. The tipline number is 1-800-292-7800.

Ben worked as the Special Topics Correspondent at WXPR from September 2019 until November 2021. He now contributes occasionally to WXPR. During his full-time employment, his main focus was reporting on environment and natural resources issues in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula as part of The Stream, a weekly series.
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