Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Number of elk declining in northwest Minnesota

Karlstad, Minn. – The number of elk counted last month during
aerial surveys in northwestern Minnesota was down from last year in
both the Kittson County and Grygla areas.

Counts in Kittson County showed 45 animals – down from the 60
counted last year – while those around Grygla showed 53 animals, or
two fewer than 2008.

There were hunting seasons on both herds last fall.

In Kittson County, where the hunt was the first in modern times,
hunters filled all 11 of the tags available to them. The hunt was
meant to target animals in the Lancaster area. There were 12 elk
licenses available in Grygla, and hunters filled eight of them.

The elk count in the Grygla area is similar to where it’s been
for four years; for many years before that, numbers were in the 20s
and 30s. (Seasons in that area can be held anytime the elk herd
exceeds 30 animals.)

During aerial surveys in Kittson County, observers have seen the
following numbers of elk in Minnesota: Eight in 2004; 28 in 2005;
21 in 2006; 44 in 2007; 60 in 2008; and 45 in 2009.

There’s been a great deal of additional pressure on elk in
Kittson County in recent months. Since about June of last year, at
least 28 elk in the county have been killed.

“We killed 11 during the hunting season; 12 have been shot so
far under shooting permits because of depredation issues; two were
poached; one was shot by the sheriff’s office; and I know of two
that look like natural deaths,” said Donovan Pietruszewski, DNR
area wildlife manager in Karlstad.

Updated elk planning

During the past two years, there have been increasing numbers of
depredation complaints in Kittson County, according to Dennis
Simon, DNR Wildlife Section chief. He attributes that partly to
increasing numbers of elk, and partly to increasing commodity

“There is declining tolerance among landowners for elk damage,”
Simon said.

Partially as a result of depredation concerns and the bovine
tuberculosis that’s been found in wild deer in the northwest, the
DNR is working to update its management plan for elk.

The plan is to meet with people in Kittson County and around
Grygla to “talk more about the longer-term population levels that
Minnesota wants in those population segments,” Simon said.

Once a desired population is established, the DNR will update
the elk plan with strategies for achieving that number, he

Regarding putting more hunters in the field in Kittson County,
Simon said the 11 permits given out last year is about the maximum
number of hunters that could target those animals.

“These animals aren’t like deer,” he said. “They’re not
distributed on the landscape.”

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