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Study Shows Elk Population in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Sustainable

elk in great smoky mountains
Elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Image by Jeaneane Payne

By Jeaneane Payne

A study conducted in Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year has shown that management of a herd of elk in the Park has no negative impact on the elk or the Park itself.

The environmental assessment was conducted to determine the most appropriate and feasible approach to manage the current elk population which consists of approximately 140 animals.

Research findings from the experimental elk release indicated that the elk population was sustainable, had minimal impacts on the Park's resources, and human-elk conflicts were manageable.

Monitoring of the elk herd will continue but that will be scaled back from efforts employed during the research phase. Some of the elk population will continue to be fitted with radio-collars and tracked, primarily the adult females and all newborn calves. Vegetation will be monitored to determine if the elk have an unacceptable impact on native plant communities.

Frequently, elk will venture onto the nearby Cherokee Indian Reservation and into towns surrounding Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The management plan also transitions responsibility for elk management issues outside the Park boundaries to the appropriate tribal, state or federal agency with jurisdiction over wildlife on those lands.

History of Elk Project in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Published October 27, 2011, 1:51 p.m.

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