By Anna Jauhola
Motorists traveling Highway 59 in Lancaster will now encounter a very visible tribute to Kittson County’s elk herd.
At the corner of 59 and County Road 4 on the north side of Lancaster, there now stands a life-sized bronze sculpture of an elk bugling on top of a large pillar of rocks. Behind the display is a billboard advertising the area where curious residents and visitors can likely see elk.
Dr. Roland Larter, who grew up in Lancaster and spent about 20 years raising his own herd of elk, donated the entire display to the city of Lancaster. He said the sculpture and sign are meant to help brand Lancaster, notifying those who drive through or visit that the area is known for the only wild herd in the state.
“It’s unique. You can go any place else in the state and you can’t see a wild elk,” he said. “And what a beautiful place to put this (sculpture).”
He said the boulders for the base of the sculpture were donated, as was the use of a backhoe to place the boulders and remove trees and stumps. Larter paid for the sculpture and the sign after he received permission from the city to beautify the corner. The corner originally had been a garden of trees and flowers maintained by Scott Amundson, but became neglected after Amundson died many years ago.
“I would hope Lancaster and the community would be proud that we have something like that (the elk). And this corner is to bring attention to it,” Larter said.
Elk roamed free in North America for thousands of years after the Agassiz glacier receded and when pioneers settled, the animals were hunted into extinction in the state.
It wasn’t until the 1990s that elk began populating the area again, Larter said.
They began migrating down from Canada into the Caribou region of Kittson County and have held their territory since. When this phenomenon began, Larter said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources contacted him for his input as he raised elk near Hallock.
There has been some opposition from farmers of protecting the elk herds and that as the herds grow, the would overpopulate the area, Larter said. However, he believes the elk are an asset to the area. He said as the herds have grown, the bulls have naturally selected harems of cows and branched off to find new territory. Some have been sighted as far east as Roseau County and south in Marshall County.
Larter hopes by rejuvenating that corner on the junction of Highway 59 and County Road 4, it brings pride to Lancaster and extra notoriety.
“If you encounter a herd of elk, or just a bull elk or a cow and her calf, they are awe inspiring,” Larter said. “They’re beautiful animals. Gorgeous animals. If you’re not impressed, you’re brain-dead.”