BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. - After the release of an additional 50 elk in eastern Jackson County in July 2016, the herd has continued to settle in to their primary range.
In March, 39 elk from Kentucky arrived at the Jackson County holding pen and their numbers grew as pregnant cows gave birth while in quarantine this summer.
"The elk appear to have had a very good summer," said Department of Natural Resources elk ecologist and elk reintroduction coordinator Kevin Wallenfang. "We continue to monitor their daily whereabouts with GPS tracking collars.
In the first two years of Jackson County reintroduction efforts, a total of 73 elk were released in a large block of state and county forest in eastern Jackson County. DNR staff and partners receive regular sighting reports and trail camera pictures from the public. In addition to tracking collars, the herd is also being monitored using trail cameras as part of the Snapshot Wisconsin program. Department staff continues to work closely with landowners as the herd continues to become acclimated to life in Wisconsin.
Herd losses have been minimal and not unexpected, with losses due to vehicle accidents, suspected pre-existing conditions and wolf predation. No verified losses have occurred due to predation since January 2016.
With fall approaching, the elk are now entering the annual breeding season, making them more active, vocal and visible to the public - DNR staff ask that people continue to give the elk their space. "I know the temptation to want to see these elk, so we just ask that anyone who wishes to look for them to do so from distance," said Wallenfang. "They are particularly vulnerable to disturbance in the fall, so we request that people not pressure them or attempt to call them in."
Wallenfang also encourages deer hunters to be particularly careful when identifying their target while hunting in Jackson County and surrounding areas to avoid accidentally shooting an elk. Elk are a protected species in Wisconsin and hunting elk is not allowed.
With elk translocation now complete in Jackson County, the remaining two to three years of the project will focus on delivering up to 75 Kentucky elk to northern Wisconsin where they will join the original herd, established in 1995 near Clam Lake. The northern herd continues to see slow but steady growth and is estimated to contain approximately 160 elk.
To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "elk in Wisconsin" and "wildlife projects" distribution lists.