A group of elk is being held in a pen in Kentucky and awaiting transfer to Wisconsin this spring, according to officials with the Department of Natural Resources.
The animals represent the final chapter in a five-year agreement between the states.
Previous shipments of Kentucky elk established a central Wisconsin herd in and around Black River Falls State Forest as well as augmented the size and genetic diversity of the state’s northern herd.
The final shipment of elk will bolster that northern herd; they will be taken to Flambeau River State Forest.
The elk were trapped in late January, said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist.
The animal’s were captured with the use of a helicopter and net gun. The elk were collected from reclaimed mining sites that offer open hillsides and fields and provide good access to the rotor craft.
The process was extremely efficient, Wallenfang said.
The animals are being held in a pen and evaluated during a quarantine period.
The work is part of the DNR’s efforts to further the restoration of the species in Wisconsin.
Elk are native to Wisconsin but were extirpated in the 1800s.
The Badger State started an experimental reintroduction project in 1995 when 25 animals were transferred from Michigan to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest near Clam Lake.
The project was initially run by UW-Stevens Point researchers and transferred to the DNR in 1999.
The herd has grown slowly and surpassed 200 elk last year, according to DNR estimates.
In 2018 Wisconsin held its first limited hunting season for 10 bull elk (five state-issued tags and five tribal tags) in the Clam Lake herd.
The pact with Kentucky called for up to 150 elk to be transferred to Wisconsin over up to five years.
Seventy-three Kentucky elk were brought to Jackson County in 2015 and 2016 to establish a wild herd in and around the Black River State Forest.
And in 2017, 31 elk were released in the Flambeau River State Forest in north central Wisconsin.
No elk were transferred to Wisconsin in 2018 due to a project to establish a herd at a new site in Kentucky.
But Kentucky officials turned their attention once more to the Wisconsin agreement this year.
Once they are transferred to Wisconsin, likely in late March or early April, the elk will be held in a pen in Flambeau River State Forest to complete their quarantine.
Principal funding for the transfer to northern Wisconsin has come from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The Ho-Chunk Nation and Jackson County Wildlife Fund also assisted with the central Wisconsin reintroductions.
A hunt is planned in Wisconsin again this year; like 2018, it will be restricted to the Clam Lake area.
Waterfowl meetings: The DNR will hold public hearings at four Wisconsin locations to collect input on the 2019 migratory bird season structure. The proposed season structure will be available in the coming week and at the meetings.
Public hearings on the proposals will be held at the following locations, each starting at 7 p.m:
March 11: State Office Building, Rooms B-19 and B-20, 3550 Mormon Coulee Road, La Crosse.
March 12: AmeriVu Inn, 1710 South Main St., Rice Lake.
March 13 :Agricultural Services Center, 3369 W. Brewster St., Appleton;
March 14: Wildwood Lodge, N14 W24121 Tower Place, Pewaukee.
The DNR will accept public input on the proposals at the meetings. Alternatively, comments may be submitted by calling (608) 266-8841 or by writing to Taylor Finiger, Wisconsin DNR, PO Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707 or [email protected]
The deadline for input is midnight March 15.