Region’s elk population strong, numerous

As we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of elk being reintroduced into Michigan’s outdoors, Department of Natural Resources officials have just concluded their annual winter survey which found elk numbers at healthy numbers.

Most residents would contend the reintroduction of elk has been one of the DNR’s greatest success stories. In 1918 seven elk were transported from the western United States to Wolverine. Today’s elk all trace their lineage to those original seven.

“The survey tells us there are between 834 and 1,512 elk in Michigan,” DNR Wildlife Field Operations Manager Brian Mastenbrook said.

DNR officials have said in the past the optimum number that they try to achieve is between 500 and 900 animals. At those levels elk seem to thrive and cause less damage to property owners in northern Michigan.

The elk survey was conducted in January when snow was on the ground. Taken from a plane, counters are able to see the elk better because their brown hide contrasts against the white snow. No survey is perfect, however, which accounts for the large range in projected numbers.

Two elk hunts were held in 2017. Two hundred hunters participated in the hunts, and 158 elk were killed, DNR officials said. Based on the newest survey results, Mastenbrook said it will be the DNR’s recommendation to the Natural Resources Commission to include a hunt this year as well.

Nothing compares to seeing an elk in the wild or hearing its bugle. The survey confirms elk continue to thrive in the region, which is another tourism benefit for all of us.