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Elk in the Great Smoky Mountains

Have you seen elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?  Our area is home to nearly 200 of the magnificent animals.

The best time for elk viewing is early morning or late evening.

Bull elk look imposing with their full rack of antlers.

Elks are awe-inspiring creatures.  The males can weigh up to 700 pounds.  The females fiercely defend their offspring and may charge challengers.  For a few weeks during the fall mating season, the males, with fully developed racks, bugle and fight to get the attention of the females.  The females gather in groups, called harems, on the edge of the fighting fields.

Large herds of elk once roamed along the Appalachian Mountain Range from George to Canada.  But, due to overhunting and habitat destruction, the species disappeared from the region in the 1800’s.  The National Park Service determined it was appropriate to bring back a native species that had been eliminated from park lands.  A small herd of  25 of the animals was reintroduced to the park in 2001.  As part of the experiment, the animals were outfitted with radio collars.  In 2002 another 27 animals were brought to the area.  This reintroduction has been very successful and today the population flourishes.

Best Places to View Elk

The elks have become celebrities, attracting many visitors each year.  Most of the elk can be found in the Cataloochee area in the southeastern area of the park.  They may be active on cloudy summer days and before or after storms.  But the best time to spot them is early morning or late evening.  The Park Service reminds you to enjoy the animals from a distance and use binoculars for close-up views.  In fact, approaching within 150 feet, or any distance that disturbs the animals, is illegal in the park.  To avoid fines and arrest, do not enter the field.  Remain by the roadside, please. http://www.nps.gov

Please send your pictures to [email protected]  We would love to share them with other guests!