Chippewa tribes threaten to shoot elk Sept. 13

Madison — The state’s six Chippewa tribes told the DNR on Sept. 11 that they intend to allow one tribal member to shoot an elk on Thursday, Sept. 13 despite the fact that the state’s fledgling herd has not yet been hunted.

DNR Executive Assistant Scott Gunderson said the agency had been “talking all week” with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) to talk them out of their decision to shoot an elk.

“The tribes let us know they intend to take a ceremonial elk,” said Gunderson in a phone interview on Sept. 11. “We’re (DNR) not keen on the idea – we don’t have a season, we don’t have a quota and there are some safety issues. We have bear season underway, archery deer season opens Sept. 15 so we have people in the woods scouting, we have people out bugling to elk, listening to them bugle and looking for elk.”

The DNR was in the process of drafting a letter to GLIFWC the morning of Sept. 11.

“We don’t have to issue them a permit, but they are saying they will go out Thursday (Sept. 13) to hunt. We don’t believe we legally have standing to stop it,” said Gunderson.

The DNR has decided it will not ask game wardens to issue any citations for illegal elk hunting should a game warden see a tribal member shoot an elk.

“We believe we’d lose in court,” said Gunderson. “Believe me, we’ve looked at every angle and we’ve been talking all weekend with Jim Zorn,” who is the GLIFWC executive director.

Elk are not listed in the Voigt court case decision as a specie the state must share with the six Chippewa tribes. Elk were restored to Wisconsin after Judge Barbara Crabb ruled on the Voigt case. However, Gunderson said elk are mentioned in later stipulations, but he did not charcterize the manner in which elk were mentioned.

Gunderson said Zorn did understand the DNR’s safety concerns and said the person who gets “tribal permission” to shoot an elk will understand firearm safety principals. The tribes were to decide the evening of Sept. 11 which of the six tribes were going to be able to choose a tribal member who then will be allowed to shoot an elk on Thursday, Sept. 13.

“If they do shoot an elk, we asked them not to shoot a cow, which can reproduce, or a big bull,” said Gunderson.

The state’s small elk herd took root in 1995 with the release of 25 head brought in from Michigan. The herd has faced mortalilty challenges from bears, wolves, vehicles and health issues in growing to about 182 animals prior to this year’s calving season.

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