Overall, wildlife biologists at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are delighted with the results of the experimental elk reintroduction in the Smokies. Since 52 elk were released in Cataloochee Valley during 2001 and 2002, the park’s population has grown to nearly 100.
However, certain individual elk do occasionally cause Park biologists some consternation. A prime example would be bull elk #81.
Elk #81 has been making extended forays across the mountain range for four consecutive years now. These sojourns have included visits to Cosby, TN and the Greenbrier area of the Park near Gatlinburg, TN. Residents of rural areas outside the park have excitedly communicated with the park staff as to #81’s latest wanderings.
A family near Newport, TN looked out their back window to discover that a bull had gotten his antlers tangled in chains of their children’s swing set. Rangers had to tranquilize the 600 pound animal and physically disentangle from the chains to prevent injury. Rangers then kindly gave him a lift back to Cataloochee Valley.
Park biologists believe the elk population will continue to gradually go. And, there are more female elk of reproductive age now than at any time since the species was reintroduced to the Park. Females generally give birth to one calf every year, usually in early June. In 2008, at least 17 calves were born to Park cows.
Park officials don’t expect the elk population to expand too rapidly. They believe predation on elk by black bears will ultimately restrict population growth. They do expect the hear to continue to spread, though. In fact, when #81 struck out from Cataloochee Valley earlier in 2009, he took a sidekick along with him–bull #105.
Adult males weigh 600 – 700 lbs, Cows 500 lbs.
Males have antlers that may reach a width of 5′.
Elk diet consists of grass, acorns, bark, leaves & buds.
Natural predators include coyotes and bobcats–while black bears may kill young, sick, or injured elk.
Elk calves weigh about 35 lbs. when born & stand in minutes.
Special thanks to the Smokies Guide, the official newspaper of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for providing the elk update.
Are you hoping to have a wildlife encounter during your vacations? These cabins have a history of wildlife encounters–mostly bears:
Bear’s Den (bears stole a picnic lunch)
Chipmunk Haven (bears —see picture left)
At the Top (bears in the trees)
Hillbilly Hilton (raccoons)
Water’s Edge (wild hogs)
Is there a topic you would like to see covered at A Day In The Smokies? Email us!
This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.