Great Smokies Elk Revisited
Earlier this month I recounted a story about the relative health of the elk herd at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The post tracked a newspaper story that painted a somewhat dire report about the herd, which has struggled to overcome depredation from the park's black bears since elk were returned to the park in 2001 as part of a restoration program.
Well, in the wake of that post the park's chief wildlife biologist, Kim DeLozier, dropped me a line to let me know things are not as bad as that newspaper article made them sound.
"Actually, this year we have not confirmed any losses from parasites (brainworm) and we also had the best calving season since elk were released," DeLozier told me, adding that officials will continue to see if they can't supplement the park's existing herd of 55 or so animals with some others from private herds.
"This year we've had over 80% survival of our newborn calves in comparison to 30% last year. I think we are feeling more positive than negative as the article portrays," DeLozier noted.
While I wondered in my initial post about the possibility of transplanting elk from Yellowstone to Great Smoky, the biologist said the fact that chronic wasting disease has been found in ungulates in the Yellowstone region makes such a transplant "a challenge, to say the least."
If you're interested in checking out the Great Smoky elk herd, you can find them hanging out in the Cataloochee Valley in the park's southeastern corner. This is the perfect time to head there, as the rut soon will be under way, and the sound of bull elk bugling is pretty wild.