I see some very good questions here and I'm glad that we're getting people to think about our situation. Gunther, I pulled 25 elk and 25 deer kind of out of the air just for an example. How many elk and deer combine a square mile can handle depends on the land and habitat. The idea is that deer and elk eat different things, they help each other and do not compete against each other for food. Maybe a certain piece of property is better suited for 5 elk or 30 elk, 45 deer or 15. I do not think we can say our goal is x amount of elk per square mile. We have to put them back and study them carefully to find the balance that the land can handle best.
Mntnm The Clam Lake area is 700 square miles. The elk have occupied about 40 square miles. The Clam Lake herd has a lot of growing room left and this is just one of several areas for elk reintroduction in our state. Black River Falls is the second area chosen for elk reintroduction. It wasn't Clam Lake Area that was too small, it was 25 elk wasn't enough.
Another point I'd like to hit on is invasive plant species. The studies of the Clam Lake herd and other states show that each species in the food chain has a "job" to do. Deer eat certain plants, and like mowing a lawn, this makes the plants stronger. Elk eat cretain plants and eating them, makes them stronger. Bison eat certain plants, and those plants get stronger. Take elk out of the picture, they don't eat cretain plants, those plants get weaker, leaving room for invasive species to come in and choke out the native plants. Many plants depend on there seeds to be eaten and then dropped someplace else to start new growth. If those seeds don't get eaten and dropped, they don't reproduce. Too many of one species, like deer, stresses out the plants they need to survive. The plants get week and leave room for invasive plants to take over. A lot of what we've called "damage" is actually good for the land. Elk trim lower branches of the aspen trees, and this lets more sun in for undergrowth that benifit another species of plant or animal. The natural food chain is not only animals eating animals, it's also animals eating plants. Plants need animals, animals need plants and the closer we get to mother natures balance, the healthier the land will be and the more it will produce.
Wolf population. Anyone who has owned a dog should know that dogs can breed at least 2 times per year. Wisconsin wolf biologists claim we have 143 wolf packs that average 5-6 puppies per year, IN WISCONSIN. That Wisconsin's average. That maybe 3 pups in spring 3 in fall, 5 in spring 0 in fall or any combination. A wolf pack looses it's pups, they try again. If the pups survive, they may not breed twice in one year. WORST case scenario is 143 packs X 6 puppies = 858 puppies added to 530 = 1388. This would be the worst case senario and although unlikely, we have to be prepared for the worst. The wolves aren't going to hang around if living is tough, they're going to spread out and find what deer are left and that means they will move south as starving to death isn't in the wolves nature. No deer, they'll turn on domestic animals and small game as Islandcafe has witnessed.
For those who say the wolf population hasn't grown much in the past few years, I've seen DNR counts as high as 560. The DNR took out 38 wolves last year when they were delisted for those few months. The DNR has no idea how many wolves have already moved south, there were a number of wolves killed by hunters illegally, and mother nature will take her toll too. The problem is the DNR says we have habitat for only 500 wolves, we are above that already and it's doing damage to the deer herd. It would be very easy to take out too many, and just as easy to not take out enough. 530-1400, we have to take out some but how many? Errors either way could be disasterous. The DNR has a very fine line to walk and our deer herd hangs in the balance. We could sure use an insurance policy here. That was the whole idea behind putting elk in Clam Lake in 1995. To insure our deer, bear and wolf populations for the future, to shore up the food chain so bears wolves and hunters will all have game to hunt.
Let's focus on winter for a minute. As is, deer are pretty much on there own. They have to dig through the snow, cut there own paths, and they have to depend on each other to gaurd against predators. Now add elk and bison. Deer can use bison and elk trails to travel on easier, they can use bison and elk tracks as a head stert for digging up food, and with every elk, bison and deer having 2 eyes, 2 ears and a nose, they can and do warn each other of predators. Ever see turkey's in a cow pasture? Turkey's eat see from cow dung and do the same from bison dung. Just more examples of how each species has a job to do and how that benifits other species.
I'll admit that I tend to be an extremist when it comes to these issues. I want the very best for Wisconsin and I want places like Crivits to once again be a great hunting destination. Since we have enemies that are even more extreme, I believe in fighting fire with fire. Extreme anti hunters want the wolves to go crazy on our deer herd and ruin hunting forever. I say we use the wolves to our advantage. It's our turn to save the wolves and ourselves by adding elk and bison. They saved the wolves, it's up to us to feed them. We can feed them our deer, or we can feed them deer elk and bison and we can eat well right along side of them. Without elk and bison, we can only share our deer and when they're gone, hunting is over. I do not believe that without adding more elk, we will ever be able to hunt elk. The bear and wolf populations going up, the deer numbers going down, wolves being protected, and every year our elk are seeing more and more pressure from wolves and bears. As it stands, we don't have enough elk, the elk don't have enough new blood and genetics to start a healthy population even without predators. Keep in mind that the original 25 elk were all from Michigan and most of those elk were related to each other (same genetics). This was a test herd, not a reintroduction herd. Big difference. 150 elk reproducing at 10% increase every year will take a very long time to become a huntable herd and was never expected to be. They were a test herd and we were supposed to add more elk in 2002 to make it reintroduction herd. The plan was to bring bears, wolves and elk up together, but that plan, the elk are years behind still in the test herd phase and the bears and wolves are years ahead in the maximum numbers stage. I'd like to see more elk added before all the deer are gone but if hunters don't see this now and get more elk soon, we may just have to start completely over with empty woods. We are not too far from that now. On the other hand, we're not far from fixing the problem and turning an iffy deer hunting future into stronger big game hunting future, Whether it's in time for us to get the chance to hunt elk and Bison in Wisconsin, or our great grandchildren get that chance all depends on what we do right now. We could get elk restored in 10 years like Kentucky, more realistically, 20 years. If we do nothing it may never happen and, at best we're looking at 50 years and our herd will have to reach the Michigan herd for genetics and won't do much for Wisconsin's economy. NOW IS THE TIME.
American by birth, hunter by choice.