Farmers voice questions and concerns over elk reintroduction

MELROSE, Wis. (WEAU)-- The Jackson County Farm Bureau hosted a forum Thursday afternoon on the elk reintroduction project.

For the past two decades, the Wisconsin DNR and other agencies have been working to bring elk back to the state.

Now in the thick of the project, some farmers say it is costing them their livelihoods.

"What we're seeing is a lot of winter damage, we're seeing to our crops. We're also seeing a lot of summer damage to hay, corn and beans. Not enough to stop you from farming, but as this herd grows and stays in our area it will eventually stop the crop farming in our township," said Farmer Scott Goetzka.

Currently there are 56 elk in Jackson County.

Around half of that population is living on private property.

While farmers can collect damages if crops are destroyed by elk, they say it is not enough.

Goetzka says representatives from the DNR, USDA and other agencies have been very forward and cooperative, but there still needs to be someone held accountable.

"I think it's what you would call a feel good program, but nobody has yet offered to pay me thousands of dollars a year out of their families income like we're being asked to do, me and my neighbors, to sustain these elk," he said.

The DNR knew there were going to be challenges.

"Certainly we knew the potential was there, however we do have tools to address crop damage now and moving into the future and we'll adapt our management strategy with these elk as we learn more and as we go forward," said DNR Wildlife Biologist for Jackson County Scott Roepke.

Both sides say while this can be a controversial topic, it is good to have an open dialogue to hear questions and concerns.

The goal for the DNR is to get 390 elk in Jackson County, or enough to have a sustainable herd.

Elk have also been re-introduced in Clam Lake in northern Wisconsin.

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