Bull elk who trekked across Wisconsin in search of new mate has died in Illinois

The elk was hit by a semi near Joliet, Illinois

An elk is spotted on a trail camera in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources 

After trekking hundreds of miles across Wisconsin and into Illinois in search of love, a male elk died Wednesday after it was struck by a semi southwest of Chicago.

The bull elk was four years old and part of the Black River Falls elk herd. He was spotted far from his home range in recent months, his movements captured by trail cameras and onlookers as he traveled in search of a new mate.

In September, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources started to get reports of the elk turning up in unusual places through the agency’s online wildlife reporting database. Christina Kizewski, a wildlife biologist with the Wisconsin DNR, said at that time, the elk was spotted near Wausau. He then traveled to Taylor County and was seen in Wisconsin Rapids.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

In November, the elk was captured on video running on a street in McFarland.

“That really sparked the public’s interest, and we got a lot of additional reports after that,” Kizewski said.

In recent weeks, he traveled southwest from the Madison area and entered Illinois.

“This type of movement was slightly unusual,” Kizewski said. “That being said, we do receive a handful of reports every fall of these kinds of transient bulls — typically they’re less dominant, maybe younger bulls that haven’t quite staked their claim to breeding rights, to the cows in the associated herd.”

Fall is ‘peak breeding time’ for elk

Kizewski said the elk was spotted in Illinois days before the start of the state’s gun hunting season. She said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources shared reports with the Wisconsin agency around that time, and they said the elk was traveling to the southeast.

Tuesday night, he was hit by a semi-truck near Joliet, about 290 miles from Black River Falls.

“He traveled many, many miles, and perhaps we figured that this would be the demise of this particular elk, just by the frequency of him traveling roadways and especially major roadways,” Kizewski said.

A bull elk can grow to be 12–17 years old. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

The Wisconsin DNR tagged the elk number 357 as a calf. Kizewski said he was likely around 400–700 pounds. An adult elk can also grow to be five feet tall.

The fall is “peak breeding time” for elk, Kizewski said. But she also wasn’t exactly sure where this elk was looking for love.

“He’s kind of a wild bull looking for a mate, so he obviously attempted a lot of different areas and was searching for a new one,” Kizewski said.

Around 515 elk live in Wisconsin, in 2 different herds

Elk were once widespread in Wisconsin and across North America. But they were wiped out in the state in the 1880s due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss, according to the state DNR.

They were reintroduced in Wisconsin in 1995. Now, there are around 515 wild elk in the state living in two main herds. One is the Black River Falls herd in Jackson County and the other, the Clam Lake elk herd, is located near the Flambeau State Forest.

Bull elks typically live to be 12–17 years old, while cow elk, or female elk, live to be around 14–18 years old.

Kizewski said if people do see elk in the wild, it’s important to observe them from a distance and to not approach them.

“It’s a bit of caution to not ever approach an elk,” Kizewski said.

Kizewski also encouraged others to report elk and other wildlife observations on the DNR website.

The Wisconsin DNR tagged the bull elk number 357. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. 

Related Stories