Clam Lake Elk News—January through March 2014; Vol. 14, Iss. 1. (Third Quarter of
the 2013/2014 Elk Year
Current Status: Based upon an updated population estimate using our camera survey’s marked bull to unmarked bull ratio and fieldcounts we estimate there are about 159 elk as of 1 April 2014. There are about 122 elk in the Clam Lake subgroup, 16 in the MooseLake subgroup, 18 in Butternut, and it appears Cow 203and her uncollared calf have taken up permanent residence in theShanagolden area with at least 1 bull. Each Memorial Day for the past 5 years F203 travels to the Shanagolden area to have her calf, then returns to Clam Lake to find a bull. This year a bull found F203 and she and her calf stayed between Shanagolden and Glidden.
We also have 88 deployed working radio collars. Elk Research on the Clam Lake Herd: Bethany Blicharz from UW-Stevens Point continues to analyze data and draft her findings. She plans to finish her graduate work in May. We expect to utilize her population information from the camera information in 2014. A third grid will be established in the new release area in the Winter Block of the Sawyer County Forest.
Elk Health & Mortality: The Winter Severity Index has been used to analyze winter impacts and make population adjustment
decisions on deer population estimates in northern Wisconsin since 1975. This index tallies the number days when the temperature low is 0 degrees F or colder and the number of days when the snow depth is greater than 18 inches deep. Two of the most severe winters recorded since 1975 where the first 2 winters after elk were released in the Clam Lake area. During the winters of 1995/1996 and 1996/1997 we experience Winter Severity Index (WSI) readings of 155 and 138, respectively. Winters with a WSI of 100 are considered very severe and likely result in significant numbers of deer dying due to malnutrition. A yearling elk was recorded as dying due to winter severity induced malnutrition during the winter of 1995/1996 by the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point elk researchers. In addition, WDNR Elk Project Staff documented two calves dying due to malnutrition during the winter of 2000/2001 when the WSI was 118 at the Winter, Wisconsin recording station. The reason I give you this background is because as of 1 April 2014 the WSI for Winter, Wisconsin is 161. This record year has been very cold with deep snows. During the last week of March, Elk Project staff confirmed three calves as having died due to malnutrition. A 4rd calf was killed by wolves, but it’s bone marrow confirmed that it was suffering from malnutrition and would have likely died if wolves had not killed it. Forecasts into April indicate that temperatures are going to be low enough to delay snow melt, so additional calf mortality can be expected. Depending on the timing of spring green-up, older cows may be vulnerable to birthing complications, and pregnant September 2 year olds may not be able to sustain pregnancy.
In addition to the above described losses we also lost a 4 year old cow to wolves in January, a mature bull to a vehicle collision in Mach, a 3 year old bull to wolves in March, and another cow to wolves. It was unusual that we did not lose any elk to wolves in February considering that February and March are typically peak months for wolf losses. However, deep, loose snow from January through mid-March hindered wolf travel.
Winter Elk Trapping and Assisted Dispersal Project: We maintained two trap sites from December 18 through February 20, then just maintained one site until we captured our last target bull on February 24th. We made 7 attempts and made 4 captures of a total of 36 elk, collaring 2 bulls, and re-collaring 12 cows, 2 calves and 1 bull. Of these, three 3 year old bulls, 1 yearling bull, 1 bull calf, 9 cows and 1 cow calf, were translocated to the expanded range to the south, into the “Winter Block” acclimation pen. These 15 elk will be held until after all 4 of the pregnant cows that are held give birth in June. They then will be released within the extensive clear cut aspen in that area. This is part of our Assisted Dispersal project. These will be the first elk released within the new expanded portion of the elk range. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the dozens of people that made this a very successful and efficient elk trapping season including private landowners, DNR wildlife staff, and volunteers.
Population Monitoring and Elk Education: During the 1 th quarter of 2014 we made 1,081 telemetry location determinations and2,162 mortality checks. During this quarter we gave 5 elk presentations to over 300 participants. We also gave several print and radio interviews.
Elk Habitat Development in the Clam Lake elk range: During this period we submitted a grant application to the National Wild
Turkey Federation, are developing another grant application to the Rocky Mountain elk Foundation, applied for and received approval for $20,000 of state funding towards this project , Sawyer County has pledged $2,800 and Friends for Wisconsin Wildlife have pledged $2,200, all for a project to create 23 acres of forest opening, rejuvenate 32 acres of forest openings and replant about 20 acres of trails during this upcoming field season.
Partnerships: The Sawyer County Forestry Department, Friends of Wisconsin Wildlife, the Flambeau River State Forest, the
National Wild Turkey Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation with the WDNR Elk Project Staff are developing an
extensive elk habitat management project for this upcoming season and for years into the future. The US Forest Service and the WDNR have signed a memorandum of understanding that would allow additional elk to be released within the Chequamegon/Nicolet National Forest. Details will be developed and funding sought for building an acclimation pen to hold such elk.
We are also gearing up for a possible elk reintroduction in Jackson County as approved by the Natural Resources Board in December of 2012. We have exceptional partners in this area as well, including Jackson County Wildlife Fund, Jackson County Forest and Parks, and Ho-Chunk Nation. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, and hope to have elk in the area during the spring of 2015!