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Wisconsin to import elk

Elk

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has reached an agreement with Kentucky to import 150 elk to the Badger State over the next 3 to 5 years. Beginning this month, wild elk will be trapped in Kentucky, tested for disease and then transported to Wisconsin.  75 elk will be added to the existing herd in the Clam Lake area, the other 75 will be used to start a herd in Jackson County.

Wisconsin and Kentucky will work cooperatively in this effort, and Wisconsin DNR staff is assisting with trapping and disease testing efforts in Kentucky, as well as providing for animal caretaking while held in quarantine.  In exchange, Wisconsin will assist Kentucky financially in the development of habitat projects in Kentucky that will benefit wildlife, with a special emphasis placed on ruffed grouse. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is an active partner in the effort.

At one time, elk inhabited at least 50 of the state’s 72 counties but over-hunting and loss of habitat resulted in their elimination from Wisconsin in the mid-to-late 1800s. An attempt to reintroduce elk in the 1930s failed because of poaching.  The last four animals were reportedly killed in 1948.

In 1993 the State Legislature authorized the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to evaluate the potential for reintroduction of the species in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) near Clam Lake. 25 elk were trapped in Michigan and after a quarantine and acclimation period, released on May 17, 1995.  That herd is now estimated at 160 animals with some in the Butternut area.

At the time, plans were also made to establish a herd in the Black River State Forest in Jackson County but never carried out.

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