swoosh

social icons Email Signup:Go

Gatlinburg Weather

Find more about Weather in Gatlinburg, TN
Click for weather forecast

Blog

head_about3

head_about4

head_ground_a

head_about2

Elk Thrive in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park look forward to spotting our large wildlife–namely bear and elk.  We are fortunate indeed to be located near such splendor.  

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to a herd of elk.

A bull elk is a magnificent sight.

Did you know that once large numbers of elk freely roamed the Appalachian Mountains and eastern United States?  Unfortunately, overhunting and destruction of habitat severely lowered their numbers.  Conservation groups became concerned that the animals would eventually become extinct.  The last of the magnificent beasts disappeared from Tennessee in the mid 1800’s.  

In 2001 the National Park Service reintroduced elk to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Twenty-five of the animals were moved to the park then, and 27 more were placed here in 2002.  The elk (or wapiti) wear radio collars and ear tags to aid conservationists in tracking their range and movements.  The herd now numbers as many as 200 animals.

These are the largest animals in the Smokies.  The bulls weigh 600 to 700 pounds, measure 7 to 10 feet long, and sport antlers that can measure 5 feet from tip to tip.

Safe Viewing of Elk in the Park

The best times to view these animals are early in the morning and late in the evening.  They also are more active after storms or on cloudy days.  Most of them are located in the Cataloochee area in the southeastern section of the park, easily accessible from the Buckhorn Inn.  This is a lovely area to hike and picnic as well.  Always view these wild animals from a safe distance, using binoculars or a camera for close-ups.  Be especially careful of  calves as there likely is an anxious mother nearby.  The males may perceive you as a challenger and charge.  The National Park Service offers a short video about safely viewing elk.  You may find a link to it at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/elk.htm 

During March and April the animals begin to shed their antlers.  Please note that it is not legal to remove antlers from the park.  The discarded antlers are a rich source of calcium for other wildlife in the park.