Moose and white-tailed deer tend to be the focus of ungulate topics and conversations throughout much of Minnesota, including the WTIP listening area. However, near the towns of Grygla and Lancaster in north-central Minnesota, an additional ungulate shares space in the conversation: the elk.
Elks have a long history in Minnesota. By the late 1800s, elk populations were spreading over much of Minnesota, stretching from the northwest corner to the southeast part of the state.
However, by the late 1880s, elk population and range declined significantly with continued human activity and expansion.
As a result, the Legislature appropriated $5,000 to revitalize Minnesota’s elk population in 1913. The next two decades involved multiple reintroduction efforts to recover the elk population.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) then developed an elk management plan in 1976 and has managed Minnesota’s elk population ever since.
More recently, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa submitted a plan at the DNR to reintroduce elk to northeast Minnesota. The band submitted the proposal last summer, suggesting the state move up to 150 elk from existing herds in the northwest corner of the state to an area of the Fond du Lac reservation, as well as a nearby state forest that includes part of St. Comté de Louis.
There are currently three subgroups of elk living in the state, the Grygla herd in Marshall County, the Kittson-Central herd in Kittson County, and the Caribou-Vita subgroup, located near the Canadian border. and Minnesota, which is run in tandem with the province. of Manitoba.
“In Minnesota, we believe we have about 115 elk with these two subpopulations remaining in our state. And then with that subpopulation that roams between Canada and Minnesota, about 130 elk are part of that group,” said Barbara Keller, DNR Big Game Program Manager.
“Somewhere around 240 elk could be in the state at any given time,” she said.
The Minnesota DNR permits a minimum number of elk hunting permits to help manage growing herd populations.
“Hunting is the primary tool we use to keep the elk population within those population goals or move them toward population goals,” Keller said.
Keller also said the elk license application is only open to residents of Minnesota and the lottery-based application process costs $4. If a person is selected in the lottery process, the elk license costs $287.
Elk license applications are due Friday, June 17, 2022, and are available on the Minnesota DNR website.
WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins sat down with Barbara Keller, Minnesota DNR Big Game Program Manager, to discuss elk in Minnesota and the upcoming elk hunting season. The audio of the interview is below.