Once a common sight in the Lower Peninsula, the eastern elk disappeared from Michigan in the late 1870s. Biologists made several attempts to reintroduce the animal to the state throughout the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the successful release of seven Rocky Mountain elk in 1918 that the mammals once again were seen regularly in northeastern Michigan.
Wildlife biologists today believe that the region’s elk are descendants of those early animals. They roam a 600-square-mile area primarily east and north of Gaylord in Otsego, Cheboygan, Presque Isle , and Montmorency Counties.
The heaviest concentration is north of Gaylord in the 98,000-acre Pigeon River Country State Forest (9966 Twin Lakes Rd., Vanderbilt, 989/983-4101).
The best way to plan a visit is to stop by the Pigeon River forestry field office off Sturgeon Valley Road. Staff will provide maps and suggest good areas and times to view the elk. Fall rutting season proves most spectacular, when the bulls throw their heads back and fill the forests with eerie bugling sounds, their distinctive mating call.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel