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.
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.
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
- Alleged Poacher of Bull Elk 21 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park charged, but is it enough?
- Memorial Fund For Slain Bull Elk #21 to Support the Elk Bugle Corps Volunteer Program
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park Elk Poaching Suspect Confesses and Arrest will be made
- Elk poaching takes place in Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains national park.
- Elk Reintroduction in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park needs more Volunteers for Elk Bugle Corp Program