Ruffian elk mobs held at bay, for now

Elk don't play. PHOTO: Carrie Kellenberger, Flickr CC, modified with image from Paramount's "The Warriors" (1979).

Elk don’t play. PHOTO: Carrie Kellenberger, Flickr CC, modified with image from Paramount’s “The Warriors” (1979).

When you drive around Minnesota, from the western prairies to the northern forests or southern farmland, you see scads of whitetail deer. They’re everywhere. And sure, they’re beautiful and all. We have that “Bambi” baggage from our childhoods, so we get excited to see them. But deer are plentiful. Even in the “down years” they are not hard to find.

It’s important to note, however, that the advance of deer in Minnesota has a lot to do with development. Deer love the edges of forests and fields, or fields and towns. As a result, wherever people have developed land — which is nearly everywhere nowadays — deer thrive.

This wasn’t always the case. When native people were the only humans here, they left the land alone for the most part. And while they knew deer, the most dominant species was elk.

Elk are bigger, even more majestic than deer. They’re gorgeous animals and true natives to our state. That’s why some ecologists and indigenous peoples have strongly pushed for the reintroduction of the elk in Minnesota.

There’s just one problem: elk are jerks. At least, by human standards.

Elk don’t like fences. So they smash them. Elk don’t like livestock. So they kick livestock ass. Elk have antlers and are seriously unafraid to use them. They’re far more territorial than deer, and they roll in huge, badass herds.

All of this makes me like elk even more, but farmers and ranchers — especially the ones in Northwestern Minnesota where elk are still found — have a big problem with these hoofed hooligans.

That’s why state plans to reintroduce more elk in Northwestern Minnesota have been shelved for the time being. The DNR had hoped that more elk would mean more hunting and tourism in that part of the state. But those plans will have to wait for at least two years.

But those elk are still out there. They know where we are. And they’ll be back.


  1. Deer and Moose are bad enough. Hit an Elk with your car and it will really ruin your day.

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