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Could expanded elk herds be a tourist attraction for northwest Minnesota?

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is considering a plan to expand the number of elk in northwest Minnesota in order to bring more hunters and tourists to that part of the state.

The Pioneer Press notes that there are currently three herds numbering around 130 animals in the northwestern corner of the state, but the DNR's draft plan would increase that to some 300 animals.

DNR Northwest Region Wildlife Manager John Williams tells MPR News that elk have proven to be a strong tourist draw in other states.

The DNR's strategic management plan for elk includes a draft proposal for expanding the herds. The DNR's plan states, "The long term vision is to enhance the size and range extent of Minnesota’s elk population and provide increased recreational opportunities," with a "healthy, self-sustaining, managed population."

The plan also includes support for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa which is considering re-introducing elk into northeastern Minnesota.

The DNR plan says it seeks to maintain "positive coexistence" with private landowners, who have objected to the herd in the past because of the potential for destruction to crops and fences posed by the large beasts.

The DNR's new draft plan would cover elk management between 2016 and 2020. A public meeting on the Minnesota elk plan will be held Dec. 3 in New Brighton. Meetings are also scheduled for Dec. 15 in Lancaster and December 16th in Grygla, two northwest Minnesota communities that are home to the elk.

Minnesota has had a limited elk hunting season since 2012.

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