- Michigan’s elk disappeared by the late 1800s
- Today’s elk herd dates to 1918
- Michigan’s population goal is between 500 and 900 elk. As of January 2019, the elk population was approximately 1,196.
The Need for Management
Elk disappeared from Michigan around 1875. Conservationists reintroduced elk to Michigan in 1918 by relocating seven elk from Western states to Cheboygan County. Over the past hundred years the population has waned when poaching and habitat quality were not managed.
In 2019, the elk population in Michigan was estimated to be nearly 1,200, exceeding the goal population of 500-900 elk. Currently, the population of elk has increased to the point where highly regulated hunting is allowed – which through the sale of hunting licenses directly provides much-needed revenue to fund management efforts now and into the future.
Elk habitat is managed in a variety of ways to ensure that it is suitable for elk and provides adequate food resources. Management activities include:
- Clearing out older trees to encourage younger tree growth, which provides important winter food for the herd.
- Creating and maintaining “food plots” – meadows planted with clover, alfalfa and buckwheat to provide natural food for elk.
- Maintaining open areas through prescribed burning.
- Careful statewide hunting regulations have been established to ensure that Michigan’s elk population does not grow too small or too large.