DNR investigating poaching of two bull elk in northwestern Minnesota

Bemidji, Minn. — Two bull elk were illegally shot and killed near Grygla in an area that holds Minnesota’s smallest elk herd and has been closed to hunting since 2012, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“Our investigation found that these elk had been shot and left,” said Lt. Pat Znajda, a supervisor with the DNR’s Enforcement Division. “The illegal killing of these bulls chips away at the outdoor heritage valued by law-abiding people in this state.”

Wildlife officials spotted the dead elk in late February on state land while conducting an aerial elk survey. An onsite visit revealed a dead bull and a younger dead bull with spike antlers that were found in thick willow cover. Both animals were frozen and had been dead for some time. DNR conservation officers were called to investigate.

“The discovery of two dead bull elk is disturbing,” said John Williams, DNR northwest region wildlife manager. “These bulls represented about 10 percent of the known Grygla herd. Due to the decline of this herd, the causes of which are unknown, there has not been a hunting season since fall of 2012.”

There are three distinct elk herds in northwestern Minnesota, which comprise the state’s entire elk population. The Grygla herd has declined in recent years and is currently estimated at 18 elk, down from the 20 counted last year and 28 counted in 2013.

“This herd had already been in decline before this incident, and there is no indication the decline has been caused by disease,” Williams said. “From 2006 to 2009, wildlife managers counted more than 50 elk in this herd. In 2009, the population goal range for this herd was set at 30 to 38 animals, and hunting had brought the herd within that range following the last hunting season in 2012.” 

Elk are managed to maintain a free-ranging, wild population in far northwestern Minnesota. These herds afford recreational and economic opportunities, including wildlife watching and hunting seasons when their populations can sustain a hunt. 

The DNR is in the process of updating a strategic management plan for elk, which will include a public input process before it is finalized. The plan will address population goals, landowner concerns about crop damage, and opportunities to hunt and view elk. 

Anyone with information about the illegal shooting of the two bulls or the suspicious death of a bull elk in the Grygla area in fall of 2013 is urged to call the 24-hour, toll-free Turn In Poachers (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Cell phone users can dial #TIP. They can also contact Znajda at 218-242-1383.

For more information on Minnesota’s elk management, visit www.mndnr.gov/hunting/elk.

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