The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just wrapped up its 2019 winter elk survey and estimates a minimum elk population of 1,196 animals (with a confidence interval of plus or minus 266) within its borders.
“The survey tells us there are between 930 and 1,462 elk in Michigan,” DNR Wildlife Field Operations Manager Brian Mastenbrook said. “Based on this survey, past surveys, damage concerns and disease issues, we will continue to reduce the elk population slowly over the coming years with our regulated hunting seasons.”
The aerial elk survey takes place in January, when there is snow on the ground and leaves are off the trees, both conditions that allow the best view of elk from above. It is also after the elk hunting season is complete and before young elk are born, therefore the lowest point in the population during the year.
“Our population goal for elk is between 500 and 900 animals. This has been determined as the best balance for the forests, area agriculture and residents,” DNR elk specialist Chad Stewart said. “Besides having an estimated population, knowing where they are located is also very important.”
Most of the elk population can be found within or adjacent to the elk range in the northeast Lower Peninsula. The Pigeon River Country State Forest makes up a large area of the elk range, and fields are planted and mowed to attract elk from the surrounding private land.
Michigan hunters took 146 elk (58 bulls and 88 antlerless) during the 2018 season.
(Photo source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources)