Wisconsin state lawmakers to consider elk hunting season.

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Wisconsin state lawmakers to consider elk hunting season.

Proposal would create lottery for single chance to hunt wild herd near Clam Lake

BY SARAH WYATT, ASSOCIATED PRESS

1/3/02

MADISON -- Wisconsin hunters would be able to kill limited numbers of bull elk under a plan discussed Wednesday at a public hearing of the Assembly and Senate Natural Resources committees.

The proposed bill would allow hunters to pay $10 to apply for the chance to hunt elk once a wild elk herd near Clam Lake had reached 150 animals. Anyone selected in a random lottery to hunt the elk would then have to pay $100 for a license, and they could have a license only once in their lives.

Such a hunting season probably would not begin until 2005, and even then it would be for a very limited number of elk, said Tom Hauge, director of the state Bureau of Wildlife Management.

The Department of Natural Resources supports such a hunt because it is a cost-effective way of managing the wild elk herd, he said.

"In our minds, it's not a question of whether or not we'll hunt elk -- it's when,'' he said.

In 1995, the state released 25 elk from Michigan in Chequamegon National Forest near Clam Lake. The herd has now reached almost 90 animals, Hauge said.

The Natural Resources Board approved a plan last month to establish a second elk herd in Wisconsin, with the condition that state officials first act to protect farmers from possible crop damage.

The DNR's plan called for establishing a herd of no more than 390 elk mainly on state and county forest land in Jackson County over 2 years. The project would get financial help and expertise from the Jackson County Wildlife Fund, the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

That plan has not yet been implemented.

Bill Hunyadi, regional director of the foundation, said the group supports the elk hunt because it could help generate interest in the elk program.

However, others including Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, said the DNR should fine-tune its elk management plan before it allows such a hunt to move forward.

"I hope there isn't a rush to hunt ahead of the best interests of the herd,'' he said.

Allen Jacobson, a Hixton farmer and chairman of the Jackson County Conservation Congress, said landowners compensated when their land is damaged by deer or other animals should also get compensation for elk damage, even if the hunting season has not yet begun.

Lawmakers have not yet decided when the damage coverage would start, because elk permit and license fees would finance such coverage. Half of the hunting licenses for Clam Lake elk would legally belong to the Indian tribes there because of treaty rights, Hauge said.

Another hunting permit would be given to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which would hold a raffle for the permit and donate the money to the state.

Eastern elk disappeared from Wisconsin in the mid to late 1800s because of hunting. State officials attempted to reintroduce Rocky Mountain elk from Wyoming in 1932, but only two elk remained by the 1950s, mostly because poachers had killed many of them.
 

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