Elk closer to being introduced in Jackson County

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Deer, turkey and bear are all common sights along roadways and in forests in western Wisconsin but soon elk might be popping up too.

The Wisconsin DNR wants to establish a second elk herd near Black River Falls.

Right now there is a herd of about 150 elk roaming in the Clam Lake area near Hayward but the DNR hopes to establish a herd of 50 in Jackson County by 2015. The population goal is near 400.

Hunters and conservationists who gathered Thursday night for a banquet for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation say they're excited to bring the animal back to its native habitat.

“Its amazing you get out there especially during bow season and those elk begin to scream and the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you don't ever forget that feeling,” Duane Walker with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation said.

Its a noise that hunters and wildlife watchers say you'll never forget, the sound of an elk bugle in the fall.
Now that noise could be coming closer to home via an elk herd from Kentucky.

“The elk, although they are coming from Kentucky their genetics are such that they were brought up in the Rockies and we are sure that they are conditioned for our world here,” Lou George the Regional Director with the Rocky Mountain Elk foundation said.

George says thanks to donations and the Ho Chunk Nation, after years of planning, elk are closer to being in the Black River State Forest.

“A large portion of this is not coming from tax payer dollars its coming from constituents and supporters who believe in the wildlife conservation message ,” George said.

Introducing the new herd would also mean extra money for businesses in the area through eco-tourism as people want to experience the sounds of the elk.

“We expect a significant boost in tourism during that time we estimated it could increase our tourism the county could bring in another 4-5 million dollars in tourism dollars,” Jackson County board chairman Dennis Eberhardt said.

The DNR plans to eventually establish a hunt too, an opportunity that the county and hunters say they are excited to see happen soon.

“I think it would be very different hunting them in northern Wisconsin because you have a very dense forest and foliage in comparison to the mountains where things are more open,” hunter Skip VanGorden said.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Jackson County board chair say they expect the first 50 elk to be introduced in spring of 2015 with plans to start a hunt seven to eight years after that.

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