People in northern Wisconsin love their elk, and they want to see more shipped in, with a new herd established in the Black River Falls State Forest.
After five meetings this month, Department of Natural Resources Big Game Ecologist Kevin Wallenfang says 98% of the 155 people who turned out support increasing the size of the elk herd. And an on-line survey shows 90% support, “Some of the people who were there want to see this happen. It wasn’t just support. It was like ‘For goodness sake, get on with it, it’s about time.’ ‘Let’s make this thing flourish as it was intended to.’ So it’s kind of interesting that some of the support actually turned into criticism at a point because they want it to happen fast. And that’s a great thing.”
Wallenfang says people did share concerns of a larger elk herd: Crop damage, cost of herd management, the big animals becoming a road hazard. But he says they want more elk, “People are enthusiastic about it. They see the benefits of putting the animals down on the ground. It’s a big, neat animal that makes lots of noises. It makes it very exciting to see them out there. They’re a real symbol of the wilderness.”
People at the meetings also want a bull elk hunting season using guns and bows. That’ll happen once the herd, now at 171, reaches 200. He says a decision will be made on that next spring.
Wallenfang says the largest hearing turnout was in Black River Falls, which would get the state’s second herd if plans to import 275 elk from Kentucky are approved.