Elk, along with bison, once roamed Southern Appalachia. By the mid-19th century, however, over-hunting and loss of habitat had driven elk into extinction.
In 2001, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park began a grand experiment to reintroduce them into the region. Twenty-five elk were imported into the Park in 2001, with 27 more the following year. Despite some setbacks caused by black bears and poachers, the elk herd has grown to more than 150, primarily living in the Park’s Cataloochee section.
Elk are majestic animals, weighing 500-700 pounds and standing 5 feet tall at the shoulder. The best times to view them are early morning and late evening, and during the fall mating season when the bulls bugle and head-butt to compete for females.
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