Northern Wisconsin received another 28 wild elk this week that arrived in the Flambeau River State Forest in Sawyer County.
The elk, relocated from Kentucky, are being held in a seven-acre holding pen to monitor their health and allow them to acclimate to the area.
They will be released in early July to roam free, after the cow elk have had their calves. The DNR is making sure the elk don't carry any diseases that could be transmitted to cattle, said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR elk and deer ecologist.
The new elk will join about 160 elk already in the area that have grown from a herd of 25 Michigan elk released in 1995 in the Clam Lake region of southern Ashland County.
It's hoped that the new elk will help boost the northern herd both in number and genetics to avoid problems from inbreeding. The northern herd hadn't been growing as fast as expected.
"We're trying to give the herd a little jumpstart here,'' Wallenfang told the News Tribune.
The northern release comes after 73 Kentucky elk were released over two years in central Wisconsin's Jackson County.
Elk were native to much of Wisconsin but were wiped out in the 1800s.
DNR officials said they may bring another 50 or so elk from Kentucky to release into the northern herd over the next two years. The long-term goal is to have 1,400 elk in the northern herd and nearly 400 in the Jackson County area.
Wisconsin DNR officials said Thursday that they have worked closely with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources staff over the past three years "to help make sure trapping efforts in Kentucky are as successful and efficient as possible." Funding for Wisconsin elk translocation efforts over the past three years has come from the Ho-Chunk Nation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Jackson County Wildlife Fund, Wisconsin Chippewa tribes and other sources.
The Fond du Lac Band Of Lake Superior Chippewa is studying a possible elk reintroduction into southern St. Louis, Carlton and northern Pine Counties in Minnesota. Researchers are looking both at habitat potential and public acceptance before deciding whether to proceed.