Wisconsin’s elk herd in the Clam Lake area is expected to grow by 20 percent this year, based on state wildlife biologists’ observations of new calves born in recent weeks.
Biologists with the Department of Natural Resources and University of Wisconsin Stevens Point wildlife researchers monitoring Wisconsin’s growing elk herd in the Clam Lake area report that the 24 elk they were watching over the spring produced 11 new calves.
“Based on our experience, we estimate that a total of around 25 to 30 calves were born this spring,” said Laine Stowell, DNR’s head elk biologist. “About one-third will perish for various reasons by the end of the year, leaving us with a population of roughly 120, a 20 percent increase over last year.”
Elk were once native to Wisconsin and are the second largest member of the cervid or deer family in North America after the moose, according to Michelle Windsor, DNR’s acting chief big game ecologist.
Elk were extirpated from Wisconsin in the mid- 1800s. A failed attempt was made to reintroduce them in the 1930s but interest in rebuilding a herd remained, Windsor said. In 1994, a second reintroduction attempt released 25 elk, captured in Michigan, into the Clam Lake area. Today’s herd is the result of that effort.
“With the help of University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point researchers, our biologists have tracked female elk and black bears in the Clam Lake area of northeast Sawyer County, southwest Ashland County and southeast Bayfield County these past four weeks,” said Stowell. “In addition to monitoring the female elk and searching for the newly born elk calves, UWSP researchers intensely monitored black bear activity in the same area to investigate bear predation on elk calves.”
Stowell said that the researchers documented seven male calves, two female calves and two unknowns. Eight of the new calves were successfully radio-collared, two were too big to capture and one was discovered still-born.
Female elk, unlike the whitetailed deer, don’t breed until their second year and rarely have twins, which together account for the slower growth of the elk herd compared to a deer herd.
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