Wisconsin’s elk population continues to expand

A bull elk in Northern Wisconsin with a DNR monitoring collar
A bull elk in Northern Wisconsin with a DNR monitoring collar(Wisconsin DNR)
Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 2:28 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - If you dream of harvesting an elk in Wisconsin this year, you have until the end of May to apply.

The DNR is now in the planning stages for the 4th elk hunt in state history next fall.

Elk re-introduction in the state is a success story that continues to grow.

“Managing elk in the state of Wisconsin is extremely unique and extremely cool when it comes down to it, it offers something that we haven’t seen here for hundreds of years, elk haven’t been on the landscape since the late 1800′s and now they’ve been back for a quarter century,” says DNR Wildlife Biologist Joshua Spiegel, based in Sawyer County.

From 25 original transplanted elk in 1995, to more than 300 today in Northern Wisconsin and another 100 in Central Wisconsin, the herd is growing at a rate of 5-10 percent a year.

That growth allowed the DNR to offer a limited hunt the last three years with a quota of 10 bull elk per year, consisting of 5 Wisconsin hunters receiving tags-- and 5 going to Native American tribes.

In 2020, more than 28,000 hunters applied, and Spiegel says seven out of every ten dollars from the application fee goes back to elk management.

“We’re able to do the extensive habitat work, the research, the monitoring that goes in to really improve our estimates and our ability to manage the landscape,” says Spiegel.

Harvest quotas for next fall will be established later this spring.

Spiegel says the DNR is also currently working on the next 10 year elk management plan, with the long-term goal of 1,400 elk in Northern Wisconsin and 350 in Central Wisconsin.

The more elk, the more hunting opportunities in the future.

“We’re putting these once in a lifetime tags out there for hunters to be successful, we know eventually that success rate is going to drop, but at this stage of the game when we offer our quota up there, how many elk we want to take, we’re expecting to remove that many elk from the landscape, we want the hunters to be successful, we want them to enjoy their experience,” says Spiegel.

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