Elk in Wisconsin

Elk in Wisconsin!  Why the exclamation?  With all the wildlife in Wisconsin you wouldn’t think having another big game animal in Wisconsin a big deal.  The big deal is this, Wisconsin’s elk were hunted out of existence before the turn of the century – the twentieth century.  Wisconsin hasn’t had a wild elk population since before 1890.


In the picture above a young bull elk feeds beside the road.

A feasibility study was conducted to determine if elk, moose, or caribou could be reintroduced to Wisconsin with any chance of success.  The study determined that elk could possibly be successfully reintroduced to Wisconsin, while the moose and caribou would probably not survive due to lack of range.

In 1995 twenty-five carefully selected elk were reintroduced into the Clam Lake, Wisconsin area.  During the first four years the elk thrived so well that researches from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point believed the Clam Lake population would reach five hundred in eleven years.  Plans were made to introduce a second herd, but discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Wisconsin’s whitetail deer put those plans on hold.


Look carefully and you’ll see two young bull elk grazing.

While trying to photograph the elk last week in the Clam Lake region I discovered that the current Clam Lake population is estimated at 164, far short of the hoped for 500.  What happened?  Darwin happened.

Darwin taught that animals who could adapt to changing conditions were most likely to survive.  In this case Wisconsin’s wolves have adapted to the elk’s presence.  In the early part of the study few elk were lost to wolf predation.  In the last eight years, however, wolf predation has accounted for about twenty elk per year, drastically slowing the growth of this elk herd.

So while the future of Wisconsin’s wild elk remains hopeful, the truth is Wisconsin’s elk need to adapt to the wolves if the herd is to become self-sustaining.  In the meanwhile, I have a place to go during the summer and fall to photograph big game animals without having to drive fifteen hundred miles out west to find these magnificent animals.


For more about Wisconsin’s elk try this website:  http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/Elk/

For more about Clam Lake, Wisconsin try this site:  http://www.clamlakewi.com/


1 Response to “Elk in Wisconsin”

  1. April 8, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of
    the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its
    a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

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