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Wisconsin DNR estimates state's elk herds have grown to around 500 animals

Bureau of Land Management

Wisconsin wildlife officials estimate the number of elk in the state will grow to more than 500 animals by July.

The Department of Natural Resources began reintroducing elk to the state in 1995 by importing 25 animals to the Clam Lake region. The agency began another reintroduction effort in 2014 that called for importing up to 150 elk from Kentucky to bolster the Clam Lake herd and establish a second herd in Jackson County.

The DNR authorized the first modern-day elk hunt in 2018 after the Clam Lake herd surpassed 200 animals.

According to a report that DNR biologists plan to present to the agency board Wednesday, the Jackson County herd should stand at around 155 to 160 elk by the time the calving season is over in July. The Clam Lake herd should stand at around 355 animals by that time.

The Jackson County herd lost at least 13 elk in 2022. Seven animals were killed in car crashes, and two were harvested illegally. The remaining four died of sickness or reasons unknown, according to the DNR report.

So far this year, two elk have died in car crashes, two to predation and another died of unknown causes.

At least 20 elk in the Clam Lake herd are known to have perished since last summer, according to the report. Hunters killed eight animals legally, wolves killed another seven elk, one elk drowned, a bear killed another and one calf died of malnutrition. The cause of death of the last elk is unknown.

The DNR plans to set an eight-bull quota in the Clam Lake area for this fall's hunting season, with four elk for state-licensed hunters and four for Chippewa tribal hunters. No hunting season will be offered for the Jackson County herd.

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