Minnesota's smallest elk herd is now even smaller after two bull elk were found illegally shot in northwestern Minnesota earlier this year.
"The discovery of two dead bull elk is disturbing," John Williams, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources northwest region wildlife manager, said in a news release. "These bulls represented about 10 percent of the known Grygla herd."
Wildlife officials who were conducting an aerial elk survey spotted the dead animals last month on state land near Grygla, Minnesota in Marshall County, the release notes. A DNR investigation determined the elk had been shot and left there – they were frozen and had been dead for some time.
The Grygla herd has been on the decline in recent years for reasons not known. Earlier this year, the herd was estimated at 18 elk, down from 20 in 2014 and 28 in 2013.
From 2006-09 there were over 50 elk in the Grygla herd.
The continued decline in the herd's population is disturbing, the DNR says, especially because the Grygla herd has been closed to hunting since 2012 as part of the DNR's elk management plan, which works to maintain a free-ranging, wild population in far northwestern Minnesota.
The DNR's management goal for the Grygla herd is 30 to 38 elk, the Grand Forks Herald reports.
The DNR's most recent survey found the total elk population in the northern part of the state has improved slightly, despite a decline in the Grygla herd. Researchers counted a total of 131 elk this year, compared to 103 in 2014.
Anyone with information about the illegal shooting of the two elks, or any other suspicious elk deaths in the Grygla area is asked to call the "Turn In Poachers" hotline at 800-652-9093.