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Will elk return to northeast Minnesota?

Minnesota elk herd

Photo credit: Shutterstock

A new plan in the works may bring elk to northeast Minnesota. Elk have historically stayed within the northwestern portion of the state. In fact, the 2017 elk aerial population survey found a total of 79 elk roaming northwest Minnesota – likely members of the Caribou-Vita herd that move between the Minnesota-Manitoba border, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Yet, for the past three years, researchers at the University of Minnesota have studied three forests in the northeast region in order to identify “potential habitat for elk,” KFGO reports.

Currently, 80% of rural landowners and residents support the idea despite a 2016 law that “barred the expansion of elk in northwestern Minnesota” to ensure that elk wouldn’t eat farmers’ crops, according to KFGO. But even if the majority supports the idea, that doesn’t mean the plan has been or will be approved.

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Those who support this initiative will turn in a final report this summer. However, the project would still require major funding to bring it to fruition. Because of this, the earliest elk could be relocated to the northeast region would likely still be three or four years from now, according to KFGO.


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Charles B. - posted 4 months ago on 12-25-2018 02:55:57 pm
Elk River, MN

Dan A. we’re probably neighbors and I’d love to see a wolf season brought back permanently. On the flip side, I don’t believe we’ll be rewarded with high deer & moose numbers in the NE, simply by lowering the wolf population. My point is-there’s more at play than just wolves. We need to get politics out of management decisions promote the experts to do their jobs. If we want more moose, deer and elk, we need to manage habitat quality (which I believe is generally poor), disease, predators and more.

Jesse M. - posted 4 months ago on 12-25-2018 01:37:17 pm

It will be tough to overcome the bleeding hearts vote to have more Apex predators stomping around eating everything.

Robert M. - posted 5 months ago on 12-19-2018 10:21:55 pm
Rosholt, WI

Would be kind of neat, but they would already be competing with a dwindling herd of Whitetails and Moose. A few hard winters and an out of control and unmanaged wolf population will make this a pretty tall order.

Chris H. - posted 5 months ago on 12-19-2018 06:46:07 pm

Awesome article, and thanks for representing MN elk!

I am from MN and spoke with the DNR at our state fair this past August about this same issue. North-eastern MN has a decent amount of public land that would be good elk habitat but elk would have to compete with moose, which moose populations have declined a ton over the past 10 years (declines are proportional to the wolf population increases...cough cough). As moose are iconic in MN the DNR does not want elk potentially hurting moose numbers and so they are considering growing elk herds in some small pockets of state forest (~40k acres) in North-central MN. North-western MN is mostly farm country and from what the DNR was saying farmers are really the hold up in attempting to grow an elk herd.

Dan A. - posted 5 months ago on 12-19-2018 02:30:29 pm

Charles do you live in Minnesota? because I do. there is more than 2,600 confirmed wolves in just the area counted . which only accounts for half of their current inhabited area. Midwest states have tried to delist the wolves to manage them. However some judge that dosent know crap about the wolves thinks there still in need of recovery. I live 30 minutes north of the twin cities, we have wolves in my backyard. This has never been wolf country and is 100 + miles south of where the state counts wolves.

Charles B. - posted 5 months ago on 12-19-2018 10:28:02 am
Elk River, MN

Elk species in general tend to live in wolf country, and wolves are certainly a factor in population levels. If introduced correctly, they should thrive despite wolf depredation.

But there's always more to the story, and it's wrong blame a single limiting factor. With northeast-MN browse in old-growth forests, harsh winters with lake-affect snow, and a society of hunters that will shoot anything legal are all limiting factors. Are deer densities actually far below the carrying capacity based on forage and climate limitations? Deer densities are historically low in the NE.

Are wolf densities actually too high? If so, they need once-again be a managed game animal.

Let's encourage science-based management of wolf/deer populations, not barstool logic.

Dan A. - posted 5 months ago on 12-19-2018 05:04:52 am

Thomas, that's why they are wanting to introduce elk to NE MN. the wolves have eaten all the deer!!

Thomas M. - posted 5 months ago on 12-18-2018 06:05:03 pm
Freedom, WIsconsin

Are they considering the large wolf population in MN?