Spreading the Word about Michigan’s Elk
By Doug Doherty, Michigan Regional Director
Did you know that the majority of Michigan’s residents do not know the state has an elk herd or where it is located? Recently the RMEF, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and a group of high school students decided to do something about it.
On July 13, RMEF volunteers from the Thunder Bay and Saginaw Valley chapters joined with DNR personnel to install information kiosks at three elk viewing areas on the Pigeon River State Forest. DNR hopes the kiosks—which were built over the winter by high school students attending the Wexford-Missaukee Career Technical Center—will increase elk awareness and promote and enhance elk viewing.
“It was great to come out to be part of a project that will help to educate the public about our elk herd,” says Thunder Bay Chapter member Dan Collard.
While there are no records of elk in the Upper Peninsula, Eastern elk once flourished throughout the rest of the state, but were extirpated by 1880. In 1915, 23 elk from Yellowstone National Park were released near the Sturgeon River. By 1975, only 200 elk remained. Conservation efforts revived the herd, which now stands at 800 to 1,000 animals. The DNR holds two resident-only elk hunts annually, with the lucky hunters drawn through a lotto system, which helps maintain the elk population’s growth and health.
Since 1990, RMEF has teamed up with the DNR and other partners on more than 30 conservation, management and research projects in Michigan’s elk country, protecting and enhancing more than 3,200 acres. State grant funds have also helped fund hunting heritage and conservation outreach projects, including brochures that offer information about the elk and where to locate and view them during different seasons.
Saginaw Valley Chapter member Scott Wheeldon says, “The work weekend was a great opportunity for the public and private sector to work together to promote conservation and increase public awareness of the Michigan elk herd.”
This project was proof that good things happen when people work together. Having the students involved was an added bonus. They can be proud of a job well done, knowing that they’ve done their part for conservation in helping to promote Michigan’s elk herd.