Reintroduction of Elk into the Great Smoky Mountains.
One of the most important aspects of the National Park Service is to conserve the plants and animals on the native land. Sometimes when a native species is has disappeared, the park sometimes reintroduces them. Along with the recent elk, the Smoky Mountains has also reintroduced three species of fish, the Peregrine Falcon, and the river otter.
The southern Appalachian Mountains and the eastern U.S. used to be home to elk. Their population was diminished by hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk in Tennessee is believed to have died in the mid-1800s. By the 1900s, conservation societies were worried that the elk were headed for extinction.
In February, 2001 the Smoky Mountains started the reintroduction of elk mission. The Park imported 24 elk from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area that borders Tennessee and Kentucky. Along with the initial 24, the Park intends to bring 25-30 more elk each year. The Park plans on a five year process, where all of the elk are monitored but a radio collar. Though the Park is not expecting major damage to the park from the elk, if there are problems the project will be temporarily stopped and action will be taken. In association with the Park Service, there are six major partners. These include The University of Tennessee, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, Parks Canada, and the U.S.G.S. Biological Resources Division.
Elk will be the largest animal in the Park, even bigger than the Black Bear. Elk are territorial and can be dangerous. The males may see humans as in there territory and charge them, while the females may charge people if they have calves present as a reaction to protection. The best advice to tourists is to keep a fairly large distance from the elk. If there is a lone calf chances are the mother is near. It is illegal to feed the wildlife and also dangerous.