Tests confirm iconic 'Warroad elk' was 20 years old
July 29, 2023
Reprinted with permission of the Grand Forks Herald.
A bull elk that hung around the Swift Ditch area of Lake of the Woods east of Warroad, Minnesota, for several years before dying in March was 20 years old, a wildlife manager for the Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday, July 25.
A laboratory in Montana that specializes in using tooth samples to age big game animals confirmed the age, said Scott Laudenslager, area wildlife manager for the DNR in Baudette, Minnesota.
Laudenslager was notified of the bull elk's age in an email from the DNR's Wildlife Health Group, which he saw Tuesday morning. A 20-year-old elk in the wild is "very old," Laudenslager said.
"Apparently, the lab we sent the tooth to had only seen one or two that old before," Laudenslager said.
Test results released in early April from a necropsy conducted on the elk after it died had ruled out chronic wasting disease as a cause of death, although the bull did have some scars on its liver from liver flukes, Laudenslager said. Liver flukes are parasitic flatworms often found in deer, elk and moose. In addition, the bull only weighed about 500 pounds.
"He was emaciated and that kind of thing, but no real smoking gun," Laudenslager said, adding the bull could have died from "several things."
"Something 20 years old, that's really getting up there," "No single one thing. Probably old age more than anything."
The bull elk, which became a local icon over the years, wouldn't have been very old when it first showed up in a field north of the Marvin Windows and Doors factory. As the Herald reported in April, the elk stayed in the same area north of the Marvin plant for six or seven years before heading south and crossing the Warroad River.
The bull ventured to an area east of town along Roseau County Road 12 in 2010, where it lived until it was found dead by a farmer's hay shed in early March. DNR staff picked up the bull Thursday night, March 9, and it was taken the next day to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of Minnesota.
The owner of the land where the bull died thought the bull would have been even older than 20 years old, Laudenslager says.
"Regardless, he's still a very, very old elk," Laudenslager said. "Not many live to be that old."
For whatever reason, the bull found the Warroad area to his liking, even though it's not a part of Minnesota with an elk herd. Minnesota has three elk herds, all in the northwest part of the state – two in Kittson County and a third near Grygla.
Laudenslager says he never heard any reports of people seeing cow elk around the Warroad area, either.
"Talking to the landowners, they were finding (antler) sheds, so he wasn't going very far," Laudenslager said. "And elk can really move, but this one seemed to like where it was at."