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Elk numbers in Minnesota are up, but still short of goal

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There are more elk in Minnesota than there were this time last year, according to the latest survey by the Department of Natural Resources.

The population count found 79 elk in the state's largest herd, which migrates between northern Kittson County and Manitoba, Canada, according to a DNR release. Last year, they counted just 51 elk in the same herd.

There were slight drops in numbers in the two other herds surveyed, with spotters counting 34 in a herd near Lancaster (also in Kittson County), compared to 37 in 2014.

And in a herd near Grygla, in Marshall County, there were just 18 elk, down from 20 last year and 28 in 2013, with DNR Northwest Regional Wildlife Manager John Williams calling the drop "troubling" given that the herd hasn't been hunted since 2012.

In total, 131 elk were spotted in the northern reaches of the state, compared to 103 last year.

The Star Tribune notes the DNR carried out its survey in February, as the weather and snow cover provided the best conditions to observe the elk.

"We continue to see more elk in this herd on the Minnesota side of its range," Williams said. "We know animals move between those grouped in Minnesota and those grouped in Manitoba, so our next step is to work with Canadian officials to determine the actual herd size."

The goal is for a population of 150 to 200 elk on both sides of the border.

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