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Elk can be found in parts of northern and central Wisconsin, but it's extremely rare to see one in southern areas of the state. But bull elk have been spotted in southern parts of Wisconsin this month, prompting the DNR to advise deer hunters to be on the lookout. 

A news release from the DNR says it has received reports of a bull elk in southwestern and southeastern Wisconsin in mid-October, noting that it's been around 100 years without elk roaming those areas. 

“Deer hunters in this area aren’t used to looking out for elk, which makes sense. These bulls are some of the first elk seen in southern counties in more than 100 years,” said Scott Roepke, a DNR supervisor. “Still, we know these animals can wander large distances, and local deer hunters should make sure they’ve got a white-tail in their sights before taking a shot this season.”

Wisconsin's elk hunting season is happening now, though only pre-qualified winners of an application process are legally allowed to hunt elk. The application process was conducted in June. 

The DNR has a page specifically designed to help hunters distinguish between elk and white-tailed deer. Elk are typically taller than deer, have a longer tail and have antlers that sweep backward, unlike deer antlers that curve forward. Most elk are also wearing collars and ear tags. 


Elk were eliminated from Wisconsin in the 1880s before the DNR helped re-establish the elk population over the past 25 or so years. There is a herd that wanders across Ashland, Bayfield, Price, Sawyer and Rusk counties in northern Wisconsin, and another heard in the Black River Falls area of northern Wisconsin. 

Elk that wander away from a herd are typically young bull elk that are looking for a female mate, the DNR says. 

Anyone who spots elk in southern Wisconsin is urged to report it here

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