By Luke Klink
A Mukwonago, Wis., woman was ticketed after she allegedly shot and killed two bull elk without a license Thanksgiving weekend in Rusk County.
Salina A. Beltran, 41, is cited for hunting elk during closed season. Beltran is scheduled to appear in Rusk County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. The ticket carries a $6,152.50 fine.
According to the Department of Natural Resources report, at 1 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25, a DNR conservation warden met with Beltran and her boyfriend at the DNR Ladysmith Service Center.
Upon meeting with the warden, Beltran immediately admitted she had shot two bull elk earlier in the day around 7:45 a.m. near a hyrdo dam in the town of Big Falls.
Beltran told the warden she had seen one bull come in, and believing it was a whitetail buck, allegedly shot at it several times. Beltran lost sight of the bull and then saw what she believed was the same animal return.
Beltran again shot and heard the bull go down, according to the DNR report.
After waiting a moment before coming down from her treestand, she approached the animal and realized it was a bull elk, and not the whitetail deer she initially thought. The DNR report alleges Beltran then realized she shot two bull elk and not one.
The DNR warden traveled to Beltran’s cabin and met with her and her boyfriend. At the scene, the warden noticed one bull was a spike bull and the other a small fork horn bull.
Beltran climbed into her treestand to help the DNR warden identify where the bulls allegedly where when she shot at them. Both of the elk were in the same general area, approximately 53 yards away, when she shot at them. The elk were laying about 30-40 yards from that location, according to the DNR report.
From the treestand, the DNR warden noticed the area where the elk entered was wooded and brushy and without snow on the ground. Beltran’s view of the bulls would have been somewhat obstructed by brush.
The DNR warden was unable to find any corroborating evidence that the bulls were where Beltran said they were when she shot at them, according to the DNR report.
A small amount of blood and hair were found in the area where the bulls died, but the DNR warden was unable to track them back.
Beltran admitted to being a hunter education graduate and that it was her second year hunting. She shot the elk with a .44 caliber rifle.
Two other DNR wardens arrived to field dress the elk, collect biological samples and transport the animals to the roadway. The two DNR wardens took the animals to a Radisson business for processing.
Once widespread in Wisconsin and across North America, elk were eliminated from the state in the 1880s due to unregulated hunting and habitat loss. Over 130 years later, they have been reintroduced in the central and northern forest regions of the state.
The state transferred 25 elk from Michigan to the Clam Lake area of Sawyer County as part of a reintroduction effort in 1995. A second reintroduction effort started in 2015 with elk from Kentucky helped add to the northern herd and start a herd near Black River Falls in central Wisconsin.
The two bulls shot in Rusk County were born in Wisconsin, according to reports.
The combined herds now are estimated by the state DNR at nearly 400 elk with more than 250 animals at Clam Lake and between 75 and 80 at Black River Falls.
Elk are a protected game species in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin’s first managed elk hunt in state history drew strong interest last year with over 38,400 applicants in the state drawing, and an additional 5,000 raffle tickets sold by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Nine bulls were harvested out of the 10-bull quota, including four bulls by state hunters during the 39-day hunt, and five bulls by members of the Ojibwe Tribes.
This year’s elk season concluded prior to the start of the gun-deer hunting season. The 10-bull quota for 2019 was met with five bulls being harvested by state hunters and five bulls by the members of the Ojibwe Tribes. More than 23,000 Wisconsin residents submitted a $10 application in 2019 to win one of four state tags, and approximately 2,500 more purchased a raffle ticket to win the final tag from a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation drawing. This elk hunt occurred only within the Clam Lake elk range in Ashland, Bayfield, Price and Sawyer counties.
Seven dollars from each application and all raffle proceeds are earmarked specifically for elk management in Wisconsin. The 2020 elk hunt application period is anticipated to start with the new license year on March 1 and run through May 31.
It is illegal to hunt elk outside of specific hunting seasons in Wisconsin, which are Oct. 12 through Nov. 10, and again Dec. 12-20.
In addition to the accidental shootings, poachers have shot a handful of elk in Wisconsin, including a bull elk illegally-killed and left to lay Sept. 14 along Highway 77 at Forest Road 174, about seven miles west of Clam Lake. A reward of $2,250 has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in that case.
Anyone with information regarding wildlife or other violations is encouraged to call the DNR’s confidential tip line at 1-800-TIP-WDNR (1-800-847-9367).
The Rusk County case is the first time a hunter mistakenly killed two elk in Wisconsin, according to DNR records. However, this week’s incidents don’t mark the first time deer hunters in Wisconsin have mistakenly shot elk.
In the 2018 gun deer season, DNR Law Enforcement investigated two illegal elk shootings in Monroe and Jackson Counties that occurred during the 9-day gun deer season.
An adult bull elk was shot and killed last year after being misidentified by a man who was deer hunting near Warrens on Nov. 17. The individual who shot the elk self-reported the incident to the department after realizing he misidentified the elk for a deer. The elk was seized and confiscated in accordance with Wisconsin law and all the meat will be salvaged and donated to the Jackson County Food Pantry.
The second elk, an adult cow, was shot last year on the Jackson County Forest on Nov. 19. The DNR is looking for information to help identify a suspect in that case, which is still open.