Great Smoky Mountains, Parks

Elk in the Great Smoky Mountains

Black bears get most of the attention in the Great Smoky Mountains, elk are also a majestic site that can be found in the region.

If you see an elk in the Great Smoky Mountains, consider yourself lucky. These nearly-eliminated species can be a rare find.

Elk once roamed the Appalachian mountains, but were eliminated from the region from over-hunting and loss of habitat in the 1700s-1800s.

The NPS reintroduced elk into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as recently as 2001 and then again in 2002.

A total of 52 elk were released in the park. Cows (female elk) usually give birth to only one calf per year.

Elks like to bugle. According to the NPS, they do this to advertise to the females and intimidate other males.

Elk do have antlers, and male elk (bulls) often use them to spar with other bulls.

Deer on left, Elk on right

In the spring, elk shed their antlers, which are then eaten by small animals, according to the NPS.

It is illegal to remove antlers from the national park.

Elk are most active during cooler parts of the day, in the early morning or late evening.

Mating season, which is known as “rut”, begins in the fall, which is when male elk make their bugling calls.

Elk on left, moose on right

Elk are most commonly spotted along Cataloochee Valley on the North Carolina side of the mountains.

Remember, it is illegal to approach an elk within 150 feet or any distance that disturbs the elk.

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