This year, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Michigan elk herd.
Michigan in the late 1800’s looked much different than it does today. Large tracts of land were cleared for settlement and farming, as Michigan grew into statehood. The massive forests that once blanketed the state were being harvested for timber to fuel the growth of Michigan communities and large cities like Chicago. According to Michigan States Geography Department, by 1869 Michigan was producing more lumber than any other state, a distinction it continued to hold for 30 years. In 1889-1890, the year of greatest lumber production, Michigan produced approximately 5 ½ billion board feet, mostly pine.
Although Michigan’s timber industry help spur the state’s growth, the boom, along with settlement and overharvesting was detrimental to many of Michigan’s wildlife populations that depended on the forests. Michigan’s DNR reports that Michigan’s native elk herd disappeared by about 1875.
As the conservation movement began to pick up momentum in the early part of the 20th century, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and others worked to bring back these iconic creatures. In 1918, seven elk were brought from the western United States and released near Wolverine, Michigan. After growing steadily to about 1,500 elk in the early 1960s, their numbers plummeted to only 200 in the mid-1970s due to poaching and reduced habitat quality. Decades of hard work and perseverance helped ensure the continuation of a healthy Michigan herd despite fluctuations in numbers. Today, Michigan’ elk herd stands at about 1,300 animals and remains a conservation success story as it celebrates in Centennial anniversary.
To Read more on the re-establishment of Michigan’s Elk Herd check out the links below!