Occasionally wildlife travel to areas where they are not typically found. A young bull elk recently has been spotted in several locations in mid-Michigan that are outside its home range.
“We first started receiving reports of a bull elk in Ogemaw County, and then Gladwin County and most recently near Beal City and the Herrick area in Isabella County,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources elk specialist Chad Stewart. “We were able to confirm the locations and also that it does appear to be a wild elk.”
Michigan’s wild elk population is found in the northeast Lower Peninsula, the vast majority in the Pigeon River Country State Forest east of Vanderbilt. Michigan also has privately owned elk, within high-fence facilities located across the state. When a species like an elk is reported so far from its typical range like this, the first steps are to ensure it is not an escaped private animal.
“The privately owned elk and deer facilities are strictly regulated, and they have many requirements to ensure wild animals don’t get in and private animals don’t get out,” said Stewart. “After contacting facilities and reviewing photos, we are pretty confident this is a wild male that simply is out exploring mid-Michigan.”
Elk are herbivores that have a diet of grasses, twigs and, this time of year, hard and soft mast like acorns and apples. This elk would have no problem finding food, and is expected to travel back north.
“Typically, a stray wild animal like this will make his way back to where the rest of the herd is found, and actually where the females are,” said Stewart. “It may take several weeks to months for this to happen, so we appreciate any information on this elk and its whereabouts.”
Early archery deer season opened Saturday, Oct. 1, and many people will be hitting the woods and checking their trail cameras. The DNR asks those who believe they have location information or photos of this particular elk to report it by calling 231-775-9727, ext. 6032 or emailing email@example.com.
Michigan’s elk population is estimated to be approximately 1,300 animals. Regulated hunting has been used since 1984 to manage the population, locations and compositions of the elk herd. In 2016, 200 state hunters were successful in the elk lottery and received elk hunting licenses. The elk season is a staggered season, with the first elk hunt period open for a total of 12 days starting Aug. 30 and ending Oct. 3. The second elk hunt will be held Dec. 10-18.
It is illegal to harvest a wild Michigan elk outside of the elk range. Michigan’s elk hunting seasons are open only in select areas of the state.
Learn more about the history and management of elk at mi.gov/elk.