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Michigan's elk population has grown by an estimated 5% since 2019

Courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A new survey shows Michigan’s elk population is thriving and spreading.

The ariel survey conducted by Michigan's Department of Natural Resources photographed elk herds spanning over one-thousand square miles across the northern Lower Peninsula and identified 92 different herds. The survey was also able to calculate the sex and age ratios within the herds.

Results estimate the population is between 870 and 1,600 elk, which is an estimated 5% increase since 2019.

“I think it's one of the greater success stories for wildlife management that we have in the state," said Chad Stewart, deer, elk and moose management specialist at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "Considering that we've now had them in Michigan for over 100 years and they started off with a fairly small number back in the 1920s.”

The results from the survey will help the Michigan DNR plan for future recreational opportunities as they update their management plan. Michigan’s elk management plan has not been updated since 2012. Between 45,000-49,000 apply for a lottery to hunt elk in Michigan every year.

In the new survey, the Michigan DNR plans to "incorporate views and perspectives from all different types of groups that could be impacted by Elk," said Stewart. "Whether it's hunters, whether it's guides, whether it's non-hunters, foresters.”

The survey comes after about a dozen elk fell through the ice and died on Crapo Lake in December in Ostego county.

The Michigan DNR characterized it as one of the largest mass drownings on record, but say it did not drastically impact the elk population.

In the interest of transparency, the Michigan DNR is a financial supporter of WCMU.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.
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