BARK RIVER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJMN) — On a farm in the Upper Peninsula, not far from Escanaba, you’ll find dozens of elk.
Welch’s Elk Farm is in the community of Bark River, west of Escanaba and only a short drive from Lake Michigan.
“We started back in 1992,” Karen Welch said. “How we actually got going on it (is) we flew to Las Vegas for a fun trip and we were at a show out there and we ended up sitting at a table with who ended up being the North American Elk Breeders Association, the president. And so we got interested like, ‘Oh, that sounds like a fun thing to do.’ Anyway, so we came home, made all the fences, went down and took classes on that in Lower Michigan. By November, this was in March when we went, by November, we were all ready to get our elk.”
Right now, Welch’s Elk Farm has 52 elk on the farm. That includes 14 calves born this year.
“What we do with them, it’s sad to say, we used to sell a lot for breeders, breeding stock,” said Welch. “We had all registered stock. They still would be if we kept track. With chronic wasting (disease) coming through, it ended up being that other states are closed because of chronic wasting. So now we mainly sell for shooter farms, which is sad to say, that but they do buy the cows too for breeding. We also sell the antlers.”
After 30 years of raising elk, Welch said half of the fun is just being able to watch them.
If you don’t know much about the animal, an elk is a creature you don’t want to mess with.
“And mother will kill you if she can get to you and the bulls will kill you in breeding time,” Welch said. “They’ve been here since ’92, 30 years, and they’re still not tame. They are still a wild animal and so we let them be that way.”
The Bark River area has been home to the Welch family and their elk for many years and for now. You’ll be sure to see them as you drive down D Road south of M-69.
“I guess you just enjoy it,” Welch said. “Just like I said, every year, you have a bunch of little calves. We could sell every animal that we have as far as that goes, so there is a market out there. My son has pretty much taken over everything. He does all of the haying and all of pretty much everything. I just help the vet work. It’s fun. It’s just nice, just fun to watch them.”