Smoky Mountain Cabins Hotels and Condos
Pigeon Forge Tennessee
HomeStay A WhileEventsHave FunSmoky MountainsEat LocalGet Married!Plan Your VisitBlogGalleryCoupons & Deals

Elk Viewing in the Smoky Mountains

Elk Viewing In The Smoky Mountains

In February, 2001 the release of elk into the Smoky Mountains began with 25 elk. Twenty Seven more elk were imported in 2002 and radio collars were attached to all the elk to be monitored. In 2009-2010, the park began developing an environmental assessment of the program and a long-term management plan for elk. The University of Tennessee, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Parks Canada, Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, Friends of the Smokies, and the U.S.G.S. Biological Resources Division are all part of the project to return elk to the Smokies where they once roamed.

Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains. They were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk in North Carolina was believed to have been killed in the late 1700s. In Tennessee, the last elk was killed in the mid-1800s. By 1900, the population of elk in North America dropped to the point that hunting groups and other conservation organizations became concerned the species was headed for extinction.

A primary mission of the National Park Service is to preserve native plants and animals on lands it manages. In cases where native species have been eliminated from park lands, the National Park Service may choose to reintroduce them. Successful reintroductions in Great Smoky Mountains National Park have included the river otter, Peregrine Falcon, and three species of small fish.

Cataloochee area of Great Smoky Mountains National ParkCataloochee entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National ParkViewing Elk In The Smoky Mountains

Elk can best be viewed in the early morning and late evening times, and may also be very active on a cloudy summer day. It is illegal to knowingly come within 50 yards of an elk, so enjoy them at a distance with binoculars or a scope. Getting too close to an elk may cause them to charge and Elk re-introduction to Great Smoky Mountains National Parkcan result in much harm. If you approach an animal so closely that it stops feeding, changes direction of travel, or otherwise alters its behavior, you are too close!

The Catalooche area is home to most of the elk in the park. The best way to get to Cataloochee is from Interstate highway I-40. Exit I-40 at North Carolina exit #20. After 0.2 mile, turn right onto Cove Creek Road and follow signs 11 miles into Cataloochee valley. Allow at least 45 minutes to reach the valley once you exit I-40.

Elk Facts

SIZE: adult males weigh an average of 600-700 pounds. Cows average 500 pounds. Adults are 7-10 feet long from nose to tail and stand 4.5 - 5 feet tall at the shoulder. Adult males have antlers that may reach a width of five feet.

DIET: grasses, forbs, and acorns; bark, leaves, and buds from shrubs and trees.

OFFSPRING: cows usually give birth to only one calf per year. Newborns weigh about 35 pounds. They can stand within minutes of birth and calf and cow usually rejoin the herd within a couple of weeks. Calves nurse for 1-7 months. Females are ready to breed in the second autumn of their lives.

LIFESPAN: elk can live as long as 15 years.

SENSES: elk have an acute sense of smell and excellent eyesight.
 

 
 

Contact Us

PigeonForge.com
3925 Nellie Street, Pigeon Forge, TN 37963

Advertise

Testimonials

My family and I love renting a cabin in Pigeon Forge. Such wonderful memories in the mountains!

Missy Parker - Chattanooga, TN

Find Us Here