Elk population is up, says DNR, but aerial count is imperfect

Feb 11, 2016

Elk can be viewed in Gaylord's elk park.
Credit City of Gaylord

Wildlife officials say the elk population in northern Michigan is stable.

The state Department of Natural Resources uses two small airplanes to count the elk herd near Gaylord. This year, DNR estimates the herd at about 1,300 elk. That compares to about 1,000 elk in 2012.

Biologists say wild elk had disappeared from Michigan in the late 1800s. The elk herd that can be found today is descended from seven elk that were released in 1918.

DNR Field Operations Manager Brian Mastenbrook says the methods used for counting elk are still relatively new and biologists are figuring out how to interpret the numbers.