After a 14-hour commute from Kentucky, 39 elk have been successfully transferred to Jackson County, Wisconsin. The elk were released into a controlled holding pen allowing officials to conduct tests over the next four months, ensuring the animals are healthy and disease free.
“We are testing them for tuberculosis, brucellosis, which are very important diseases to make sure we don’t bring into the state, because of our dairy industry in Wisconsin. Chronic wasting disease, they never had a situation of chronic wasting disease in Kentucky, which is the primary reason why we have gone there,” Kevin Wallenfang, a Department of Natural Resources Big Game Ecologist told Fox 11.
This release marks the second year of the Jackson County reintroduction after 23 elk were released in the summer of 2015. That being said, after the winter months wildlife biologists believe only 15 of those elk still remain, the others having succumb to vehicle collisions or predator attacks.
“We started this process, and I said all along, that wolves are going to have an impact on the population,” said Wallenfang.
The established herd to the north of Jackson County will also get a boost from reintroduction projects in the future. Established 21 years ago, the Clam Lake herd current sits at around 160 animals and plans are to release an additional 75 elk to that region.
“That herd has grown steadily over the years, and we’re hoping another 75 elk or so up in that country, is going to give them a boost that we’ve always been looking for. We’ve got a goal up there of about 1400 animals,” said Wallenfang.
The population goal for Jackson County is to have around 390 healthy elk in the region.
The total cost for the reintroduction project is estimated at around $600,000 with the majority of funding coming from local governments and wildlife organizations.