Great Smoky NP To Continue Elk Experiment
Blame it on the guys. That's what the biologists in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are doing. They say there are too many males in their small elk herd and that's what's preventing the herd from naturally increasing.
Back in 2001 park officials embarked on a path they thought would return elk to the park. The program was scheduled to end in 2005. But the park's elk population remains at 50-55, which is roughly the same number of elk that were brought to the park for the program, and officials have extended the recovery program for a few more years.
Biologists say the fact that roughly half of the herd is male has hampered breeding efforts. They thought births would have increased the female numbers, but that never happened. Now they're planning to bring some more female elk into the park from the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in Kentucky.
Male-female ratios alone haven't kept the park's elk herd from growing in the Cataloochee Valley. Brain worms have proved to be the No. 1 killer of elk in the park, and black bears killed four elk calves last spring.