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


dan said...

This is so sad. We were able to see one of the elk in October when we were down. They are truly magnificent animals. Also sad is elk # 2 (I believe) was at the entrance to Cataloochee and a volunteer said he was sick. I hope he is better.

Your idea for mounting this animal is a good one and I hope to see it next time we are down. Finally, I hope justice is served to the monster who killed the elk.

Smokies Hiker said...

Elk #2 did have a parasitic problem which affected the skin on his rump. It appears to have been cured with medication administered by our Elk Biologist via a dart which falls off on its own so that the animal did not need to be handled which is always best with a wild animal.

The people who work in the Elk Program are a fantastic group of people and the indiscriminate killing of an elk that some of us have watched for 8 years is something none of us will forget.

Mounting this animal would show the public only 1 of the victims of this crime. We all are victims as we all own the valuable resources of this and all of the other national parks.

priceelkwatchers said...

My husband and I have followed these elk since 2001 and are lucky enought to live here in western North Carolina and may go into Cataloochee several times a month. We have watched #21 or as I call Blackjack through all of his majestic years in the valley.
We are deeply saddened by this cowardly act and hope that who ever did this will be caught and prosecuted to the full extend of the laws. We feel that one of our wilderness family members has been taken from us.
His bugle will forever sound in our hearts, his majestic stance in our minds and his spirit in his offspring will live forever in the valley.

Smokies Hiker said...

Yesterday the valley was more crowded than usual for this time of the year with 1 elk still exhibiting rutting behavior yet none of our cows were receptive.

Many came to see the elk only because they heard of the news and dozens of visitors expressed dismay to me over the poaching.

Many of outraged visitors were hunters some of which were members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation which was one of the key organizations instrumental in bringing the elk into the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Based upon the reaction from locals, once this deranged person is caught, he will find it very difficult to show his face in the Smokies.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that the Park is considering no longer ear tagging and radio collaring the elk? Will they loose all of their genetic research and their ability to detect poaching? Is this being considered to just appease photographers? How will they know if poachers kill an animal in the woods without the radio collars?

Anonymous said...

This "CRIME" was commited by a young father who had his twelve year old son with him. They were from out of state, did not know the area,or about elk. They came on the Elk unexpectedly and the first reflex was to shoot.
I am not making excuses for this man. However he is not a criminal.
Stupid, yes!! He did not leave the area untill he had asked if it were o.k. He gave the officer his gun and offered his truck keys. He went home, as anyone would have.
He regrets this tragic mistake.
Can we just keep the comments to the truth?

Smokies Hiker said...

In response to Anonymous from 9:15 last night:

1)It was a crime. If he has a 12 year old child he is old enough know he cannot shoot a weapon without knowing if he is allowed to do so where he is – let alone to kill something.

2)He was from out of state? He lives in NC and committed the crime in NC. It wouldn’t matter much if he was from out of state as national parks are throughout the USA.

3)Truth? Unless you were there and watched this whole massacre and subsequent escape you are only speculating. I am only releasing now what the government is releasing and the first hand information I have shows that he fled from the park.

4)If in fact this crime was as a result of "They came on the Elk unexpectedly and the first reflex was to shoot." we will be sure to use this to help build our case to reverse the ruling of allowing guns in the national park starting in February 2010.

5)If in fact when he committed this crime he had his child with him, there should be additional charges including child endangerment and let’s hope for the child’s sake that the father is evaluated by social services and if need be, the child is placed in a safer living situation with parental figures that think and act more rationally than this poacher does.

While I don’t know why you are motivated to protect this individual, the fact remains that a defenseless elk was shot at close range with a roadway running behind the kill zone endangering anyone on the road and the poacher committed a crime making him a criminal whether he knew it or not and when old women and small children come to see the elk, I have yet to see any of them afraid of the elk so I guess that would make him a coward.

Smokies Hiker said...

In response to Anonymous from 9:15 last night:

I am working on getting for you the official word for the interesting questions about collaring and tagging you have posed and hoop to have answers for you shortly.

Bobie said...

Bobie said.... This really saddens me and my family, we were over there in oct, they are beautiful creations why anyone would want to hurt or kill them is beyond me.My son has this elk on his cell phone recored buglying. This really hurts me. I hope he gets the worst punishment he can get.

LovesAllCreatures said...

I tip my hat to all of you for your love and devotion to these mostly helpless but beautiful and majestic creatures. I unfortunately did not have a chance to view #21 in the wild before this disgusting human being took his life. My first trip to the smokies is planned for August of this year (2010) and I hope to experience these wonderful creatures for myself (and with my family) in all their splendor. Thank you all for being the animal lovers, protectors, advocates and environmentalists that you all are.