Fond du Lac Band wants to move elk to northeast forest

DULUTH, Minn. — Once hunted to the brink of extinction, elk could be reintroduced to the forest in northeastern Minnesota.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has submitted a plan to the state DNR that would move 100 to 150 elk from existing herds in the northwest to an area that includes the Fond du Lac reservation and the Fond du Lac State Forest in Carlton and St. Louis counties.

Thousands of elk once roamed the state, but now their population has dwindled to three small herds in northwestern Minnesota.

The band proposes moving the elk from a predominantly agricultural part of Minnesota over a period of three to five years, beginning in 2025, to a more wooded state, county and tribal land, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

“We have sufficient habitat for elk that roughly could support one elk per square mile, which is similar to elk herds In Michigan and Wisconsin,” said Mike Schrage, the band’s wildlife biologist. “And we had good levels of public support (for the idea), both from local residents and local landowners.”

The Fond du Lac Band wants to ensure its members have an abundant supply of traditional food in an area where they retain treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather.

“Elk have historically been, and continue to be, an intrinsic part of our culture and traditions,” said Fond du Lac Tribal Chair Kevin DuPuis Sr.

The DNR has not yet responded to the proposal.

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