Fond du Lac Band wants to move elk to northeast forest

DULUTH – Once hunted to the brink of extinction, elk could be reintroduced to the forest in northeastern Minnesota. The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has submitted a plan to the state Department of Natural Resources that would move 100 to 150 elk from existing herds in the northwest to an area that includes the Fond du Lac reservation and the Fond du Lac State Forest in Carlton and St. Louis counties.

Elk are native to Minnesota and thousands of elk roamed the state, but now their population has dwindled to three small herds in northwestern Minnesota.

According to a press release from the Fond du Lac Band, the elk, known as omashkooz by the Ojibwe, were an important part of the diet and culture of Native Americans.

"The Band’s Reservation Business Committee believes restoring a wild elk population to areas where band members retain their historic treaty rights is in the Band’s best interest," Fond du Lac Tribal Chairman Kevin Dupuis Sr. said in the release. "Elk have historically been, and continue to be, an intrinsic part of our culture and traditions."

The Band initiated an effort to explore restoring elk to three areas in or near their historic range in northeast Minnesota in 2014. The Band partnered with the University of Minnesota and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Feasibility studies were completed by the University in August, 2019.

According to the press release, the results of the study showed strong support for the return of elk by landowners and general public.

The majority of the land in the proposed restoration area is forested and in state, county, or tribal ownership. The proposal says the elk would undergo appropriate health screenings, and would be moved over a period of three to five years.

The proposal needs to be in collaboration with the Minnesota DNR and other public and private partners.

The DNR has not yet responded to the proposal.

For a full proposal can be found at