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TALKIN WITH DOKKEN: Are wolves the cause for elk decline in Grygla, Minn., area

Q. I was born in Grygla, Minn., and a friend in Grand Forks sent me your article on the elk survey (“DNR completes elk survey,” Page E6, March 16). Our elk herds (in Washington state) are also on the decline, but the general opinion seems to be that the wolf packs and cougars are the main cause.

Do you have a significant wolf depredation on the Grygla elk population?

A. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources hasn’t done any studies looking specifically at the impact of wolves on elk numbers in the Grygla area, but it’s certainly possible they’re taking a few.

To get a better gauge on the potential impact, I forwarded your question to John Williams, regional wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji. Here’s what he had to say:

“It’s a good question and could be where the ‘the missing’ elk are, or rather are not,” Williams said in an email.

Williams said he saw an email that Joel Huener, manager of Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, received from someone in the Grygla area implying as much and saying he had seen elk being followed by wolves.

The Grygla elk herd, which the DNR this winter estimated at 20 (down from 28 last year) is in Huener’s work area. The DNR’s goal for the Grygla herd calls for a pre-calving population of 30 to 38 elk, and numbers since 2008, when the DNR’s winter aerial survey tallied 55 elk, have been on a steady decline.

Wolves certainly could be a factor.

“Nothing has been determined for how much this may be happening,” Williams said. “One could make a correlation with less deer in the area and wolves taking an opportune elk.”

At the same time, though, the extent would be limited, Williams said, because the area just doesn’t have that many elk.

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Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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