19 May 2010, 11:55pm
Latest Wildlife News
by admin

Recovery of one native species deepens struggle of another

by Paul Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 5, 2023 [here]

The distinctive beep bore bad news for the reintroduction of elk in Wisconsin. Bad, but not unexpected.

The state’s elk biologists had steeled themselves for the day the next mortality signal would sound.

It happened Monday. When Laine Stowell followed the electronic trail to the bank of the West Fork of the Chippewa River, all that was left of the female elk was hair, a few bones and a radio collar.

The elk had fallen prey to gray wolves, probably of the Torch River Pack, reasoned Stowell.

The incident highlights the recovery and burgeoning population of a native predator species long linked to wildness in northern Wisconsin.

It also underscores the challenges facing another native as it struggles to re-establish itself in the Badger State.

The loss was especially noteworthy because it reduced the state’s elk herd to 131 animals - the same place it started last May.

It meant the elk herd, for just the second time in the 15-year effort to re-establish the native animals, would not show annual growth.

Of course, there are still two to three weeks left in what biologists call the “elk year,” before the next round of calves are born and before the herd renews its struggle for growth.

“We could still lose some,” said Stowell, elk biologist for the Department of Natural Resources, his voice indicating such an event was more likely than not.

Only in 2006-’07, when the herd declined by 3%, has an elk year ended in the red.

The herd started in 1995 with 25 elk transferred from Michigan to the Clam Lake area. The project was made possible in large part by funds raised by Wisconsin members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. …

According to DNR estimates, Wisconsin had 702 to 746 wolves during the winter of 2009-’10, an increase of 75 to 100 animals from the previous year.

Wolves have been the leading cause of elk mortality since reintroduction. According to DNR data, 44 of the 143 known elk deaths since 1995 have been due to wolves. … [more]

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