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DNR's 2022 elk population estimate shows healthy herd

An elk herd bedded down in the snow in a forest opening photographed from above.

Results of the 2022 Michigan elk survey show the herd is healthy and growing.

During an aerial survey of the elk herd conducted over eight days in January, Department of Natural Resources staff flew over 1,080 square miles of predetermined sample plots across the northern Lower Peninsula to locate, count and photograph elk. Results from the survey estimate the population is between 870 and 1,684 animals.

A total of 793 animals in 92 groups were observed during the survey. A population estimate model was used to account for the animals that may not have been observed during the flight survey. Additionally, the photos taken during the survey were used to calculate the sex and age ratio of the herd. The 2022 survey estimates the population has increased 5% since 2019.

The elk population reflects the objectives and actions written in the Michigan Elk Management Plan.

"The latest estimates suggest that the elk herd remains healthy," said Chad Stewart, DNR deer, elk and moose management specialist. "We will continue to sustainably manage the herd and habitat across the elk range."

At Thursday's Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing, the DNR recommended maintaining the current license quotas and season structure for the 2022-2024 elk regulation cycle.

The Michigan Elk Management Plan was last updated in 2012. In 2022, an update on Michigan's elk management progress and accomplishments over the past decade will be developed and incorporated into the plan to guide management decisions for the next 10 years.

Elk are a valuable resource for Michigan's ecosystems, while also providing opportunities for outdoor recreation such as hunting and wildlife viewing. Learn more at Michigan.gov/Elk.

An accompanying photo is available below for download. Caption information follows.

  • Elk herdDNR staff flew across portions of the northern Lower Peninsula over eight days in January to locate, count and photograph elk. Results from the aerial survey estimate the population is between 870 and 1,684 animals. 
  • Media contact: Chad Stewart,517-282-4810