Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Snowfall Does Not Affect Smokies But The Weather Can Still Be Treacherous For Hikers.

Luckily most of the snowfall, what little there was, did not severely impact the Smokies other than closing Clingmans Dome Road, cause a few fender benders and create a light build up of snow and ice on Newfound Gap Road US 441 which has not hampered traffic.

Though the light dusting of snow makes for pretty pictures at the highest elevations, the high winds and plummeting temperatures for the next few days should have hikers and campers in backcountry concerned and making sure that they are properly equipped so they will not have issues with exposure.

Presently there are 30 mph sustained winds in some areas with much higher gusts. The wind-chill factor in places such as Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome and Mt Le Conte will be at -2 degrees Fahrenheit or even lower and when temperatures plunge tonight, could prove dangerous for those not prepared.

Hikers and campers should wear plenty of layers that can put on and take off easily so as to not overheat and later be chilled with sweat soaked clothing. It is best to not wear cotton which can hold moisture close to the skin.

Hikers and campers in the Smokies must also remember it starts getting dark in the park now at around 5:00 pm.

Weather in and around the Great Smoky Mountains.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Memorial Fund Set Up For Slain Bull Elk #21 to Support the Elk Bugle Corps Volunteer Program

Last week's tragic poaching of the Great Smoky Mountains national parks Bull Elk #21 in the Cataloochee Valley outraged many people. Nature lovers, photographers and responsible hunters come from far and wide to enjoy the elk and the natural beauty of Cataloochee Valley.

The National Park has recognized how instrumental the all volunteer Elk Bugle Corp is in protecting our Elk, educating visitors about the elk and responsible wildlife viewing.

The Friends of the Smokies - a nonprofit fund-raising organization which raises funds for projects such as the Elk Restoration Program in the Great Smoky Mountains national park has set up a memorial fund for bull Elk #21 to fund the Cataloochee Valley Elk Bugle Corps and Your Smokies has just made the first donation to get this fund started.

While I would love to see other large donations to this very good cause, the Elk Bugle Corp would be glad to receive donations of any size made to the memory of Bull Elk #21. Donations will fund the Elk Bugle Corps most pressing needs and every little bit helps so please give what you can to the Bull Elk #21 Memorial Fund.

Memorial Fund Set Up For Slain Bull Elk #21 to Support the Elk Bugle Corps Volunteer Program

To Donate Click Here

Default Donation is $10 but you can increase or decrease the amount

Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible as allowable by law.

Every dollar collected helps protect the parks precious resources and allows Elk Bugle Corp members to show you the beauty and share the historic significance of the Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Related Elk in the GSMNP Stories

Monday, November 16, 2009

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Elk Poaching Suspect Confesses and Arrest will be made

This Friday bull elk #21 was shot and killed in the Cataloochee section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park near Maggie Valley NC by what turned out to be a man from Granville County.

Bull elk #21 was 13 years old and one of the first elk moved in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains national park in an experimental North American Elk reintroduction program that was to last 4 years but ended up concluding 8 years later.

Bull Elk #21 was born in Elk Island, Canada and spent some time in Land between the Lakes Kentucky before he was released along with 24 other elk in the Cataloochee Valley in 2001.

Elk Poaching Suspect in GSMNP Confesses and Arrest is Emanate

Bull #21 was a fixture in the valley and always stayed closed by the original field he was released from in contrast to some of the elk which have ended up as far away as Newport Tennessee or Asheville North Carolina.

Often Bull elk #21 would graze in a pasture right by the rangers station with 3 other bull elk buddies we nicknamed the bachelors. This gave our visitors an up close view of a full mature bull elk before they even entered the main fields within the Cataloochee Valley.

During the rut the bachelors would go their separate ways but as of last week since the rut is winding down he was hanging out with his buddies again.

Bull 21 was one of the most dominate bulls in the Cataloochee Valley and his impressive size and huge antlers delighted visitors for years and impressed many of the female elk (called cows) which he collected into a harem and bred.

Even though bull elk #21 was already a grandfather, he was still active during the rut and put on a good show during this years breeding season before he was gunned down.

The picture below was taken October 5th of this year and it shows Bull Elk 21 with his harem in the field by the Beech Gap School in the Cataloochee valley of the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

bull elk #21 with his harem in Field by the Beech Gap School

The shooting took place at close range while he was most likely feeding or just watching the coward who shot him.

Bull elk #21 was found lying down in the field by a park ranger who works in the valley. He collected evidence and worked with the park to transport bull elk #21s body to the UT College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy which has yet to come back.

A joint investigation to find the poacher who shot the elk in the Great Smoky Mountains national park was started utilizing Park Rangers, a National Park Service (NPS) Special Agent, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

The suspected poachers truck description lead the Elk poaching investigation to Granville County. Here the special NPS agent received a confession and additional evidence was gathered.

The U.S. Attorney's Office and the Great Smoky Mountains national park are working together to develop the case so that an arrest can be made at which time the suspects name will be released.

The poacher will face a fine of up to $5,000 and 6 months in jail for the actual poaching and will face losing his truck as well as the weapon he used to commit this crime. It is possible he may face other charges as well for example possession of a loaded weapon inside the National Park which is still illegal until February of 2010.

Park Visitors, National Park employees and Volunteers are all outraged at this heinous crime. Fortunately there are still enough bulls in and around the valley capable of breeding so that the Elk reintroduction program in the Great Smoky Mountains national park will not fail as a result of the loss of bull 21.

Acting Chief Ranger, Steve Kloster stated "The suspect was quickly identified and a strong case developed because of the willingness of members of the community to come forward and talk to Rangers and state wildlife officers."

He went on the say "The many visitors and volunteers who come to Cataloochee expressly to watch the elk constitute a very effective surveillance network which has undoubtedly prevented elk poaching from occurring earlier."

I am proud to be an Elk Bugle Corp Volunteer and when the call is made next spring for more volunteers I hope that we can get even more people who are dedicated and who love nature and the park to come join us and help protect the remainder of the herd.

I would like to thank all of those involved in the investigation for the fine job they had done and thank Park Ranger Mark LaShell, our Parks Elk Specialist: Biologist Joe Yarkovich and the other Bugle Corp members for the outstanding work they do in the valley every day for our Elk Program.

Related Elk in the GSMNP Stories

Friday, November 13, 2009

Elk poaching takes place in Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter know how near and dear the Elk in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are to me and of course the tens of thousands of other park visitors a year who come to the Cataloochee Valley just to see our elk.

Elk poaching takes place in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Unfortunately this morning someone well within the national park boundaries in the Cataloochee Valley decided to poach one of our beloved Elk which was one of the first elk released in the park, 13 year old Bull #21 pictured above.

This person who committed this cowardly act not only took this animals life away but took from all of us a magnificent beast. Elk are now able to roam the Great Smoky Mountains which have not heard the bugle of a wild elk for more than 100 years due to over hunting and habitat destruction because of a great investment and time and money from private sources given graciously to the park.

For those of us who love the Great Smoky Mountains national park the elk have become intimately intertwined with this beautiful place since their experiment introduction in 2001 and the herd has grown from 52 head to an estimated 105. The long term prospects for this experimental reintroduction of elk in the Smokies looks fantastic.

Poaching of natural and cultural artifacts is a serious problem in all of our national parks. Poaching in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and the adjoining Blue Ridge Parkway is most commonly to plants such as ramps, ginseng, and wildflowers such as lady slippers as well as wildlife most commonly black bear and deer.

More than 80 park volunteers who love the elk and I work in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a program called the Elk Bugle Corp offering educational information to visitors about the elk and the GSMNP, help with traffic management and work to maintain a safe distance between visitors and our beloved elk and black bear.

So that some good use comes out of this cowardly crime, it would be great if this animal was mounted for display in the new Oconaluftee visitor center being built or the Sugarlands visitor center museum rather than just dump the animal's body after the forensic evidence is gathered to prosecute this criminal. At least people can then see up close one of these magnificent animals we have so much invested in.

I urge anyone who has any information about this or any wildlife crime in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to call the GSMNP Main Number at park headquarters (865)436-1200.

Related Elk in the GSMNP Stories

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cades Cove Loop Road and Greenbrier Road are closed. Other local roads flood due to high water

Cades Cove Loop Road and Greenbrier Road have both been closed today due to high water on numerous places from the past 30 hours of rain. Since close to 3 inches of rain has fallen in some areas creeks streams and rivers are spilling over their banks creating a mess for many on the Smoky Mountains.

There have been numerous traffic accidents in the Gatlinburg - Pigeon Forge - Sevierville area and a flood watch is in effect in Newport until 7 pm as the Pigeon River is expected to create flooding issues.

To make matters worse there is a wind advisory in effect today until 4 pm tomorrow so expect that trees will fall because of the saturated ground and high winds creating more power outages and telephone and internet service interruptions.

The Great Smoky Mountains national park is faring better than expected as other roads in the park have not been closed yet and though all the branches, creeks, streams and rivers are flooding they are yet to create any property or safety issues other than for those who will kayak or attempt to cross them in the dangerous state.

While it is possible that Cades Cove Loop Road may reopen today if the high waters recede, it is doubtful that Hyatt Lane, Sparks Lane, Forge Creek Road and Parsons Branch Road will open right away as vehicles driving over these gravel roads when they are saturated do serious damage to the roadway.

Greenbrier Road is closed right now and may reopen today, but the section of roadway to the Ramsey Cascades parking area will take at least a day before the water recedes enough for it to reopen.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Closed section of Foothills Parkway West will see some construction traffic for 6 weeks.

One of hidden secrets of the Great Smoky Mountains national park are the 2 incomplete sections of the Foothills Parkway off 321 which has some stunning vistas and hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and even leased dogs are allowed.

Both of these long "trails" offer visitors a chance to explore nature for long distances with a gradual grade which is very accessible for those how may have problems with conventional hiking trails, want to avoid crowds or who are higher functioning persons with disabilities.

Unopened Section of Foothills Parkway

From November 12th through December 22nd on the far eastern side of the 9 mile section of the Foothills Parkway by Walland core drilling will be taking places so hiker and bikers need to be aware that this normally traffic free area will see some construction vehicles driving to and from the drilling sites.

I would suggest that anyone especially those who live in the area who has not hiked the incomplete sections of the Foothills Parkway does so before it is finished and open to vehicular traffic.

Related Smokies News Stories

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Controlled burns to take place in Cades Cove section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Cades Cove in the north western section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park will be ground zero for 3 planned controlled burns this week performed by national park service firefighters as a cost effective method to keep the historic fields in the valley from becoming a forest.

Prescribed burns in Cades Cove generally take place in March but due to the Cades Cove Loop Road repaving next year which will close the road, prescribed burns will take place if weather conditions permit today through Friday.

Today the park plans on burning several tracts of land in the Cades Cove Valley west of Hyatt Lane close to where prescribed burns took place this spring. Before setting the larger blaze containment areas have been set by mowing the grass around where the burn is to take place.

If all goes well tomorrow through Friday the next set of controlled wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains national park will take place in fields between Parks and Hyatt Lane.

While these burns should not effect traffic along the Cades Cove Loop Road it is possible to road will be closed for safety reasons. It is also possible either Hyatt Lane or Sparks Lane will be also closed in the next 3 days but more than likely the only effect the prescribed wild fire will have on visitors in Cades Cove is the sight and smell of smoke.

The Great Smoky Mountains national park has about 950 acres of fields in the Cove visible from Cades Cove Loop Road mowed a year and another 1,000 acres that are less visible are kept from being claimed by forest burned or mowed on a 3 year rotation.