June 3, 2023

North Carolina Wants to Import More Elk

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The Great Smokey Mountains National Parks has requested from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, permission to import 30 more elk from herds in Kentucky. These would be added to the already 52 elk in the Cataloochee Valley.

The 52 elk were part of an elk restoration project that began in 2001 but was put on hold out of fear of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease. The only known way of positively testing animals for CWD is when they are dead, so it remains impossible to know whether a live animal is contaminated.

There are provisions in the wildlife regulations that would allow the Commission to make an exception to a rule banning the importation of cervids (deer, elk and related species). To do that two major criteria would have to be met.

1. The land and area between where the animals would come from in Kentucky and their final destination was clearly free of CWD.

2. The current elk herd in the Park would have to be in imminent danger of dying off without further importation.

There are no reports available that would indicate that the present elk herd is in danger of dying off. If that is the case and the above conditions are solid guidelines, then I can only assume that importing elk isn’t going to happen.

If we have not been told about the failing condition of the herd, if that is the case, then we need to know what is the reason for the herd depleting.

I assume the Park just wants to increase the elk population and are in hopes that the Commission can find a way around the guidelines.

Tom Remington

*UPDATE* Under normal circumstances I would not move a readers comments up to the front page of a post but this comment is pertinent to the basis of the story which I wrote about and better explains the reasons for the request to import more elk from Kentucky. A big hat tip to Moosesign.

As one who travels up to see the elk a few times a year and has followed the reintroduction there is a birth rate problem. 75% of all calves that survive are male! I hope NC Wildlife relaxes the rule to allow some more to be added. The plan from all along was to add more once these got settled but CWD and the problems NC had with unlicensed deer farms has put a stop to all of this. Here is a clipping from the latest report on the herd(Oct 2005); To date, we have confirmed the births of 10 calves (3M:5F:2?) from this year and possibly an additional 2–4 calves belonging to cows in more remote areas. Although predation by black bears has resulted in only 2–3 of the 10 confirmed births surviving, these calves are female. While those numbers are disconcerting at first, this calving season has produced more females than each year before. This is very promising considering that approximately 75% of all calves born from 2001–2004 were male.

Since January, we have documented 3 non-calf mortalities; these include a 1.5-year-old bull (#65) from Oconaluftee, a 4-year-old bull (#59) from the White Oak area outside the Park, and a 9-year-old cow (#28) from Cataloochee Valley. All of those deaths appear to have been from natural causes. Again, these numbers are considerably better than 2004 when the project lost a total of 9 elk (3 subadults and 6 adults).
source= http://www.ncelk.org/herd.htm

I did a story about this on my site too and posted a few of my elk photos if folks are interested.
I hope that in my lifetime there will be a huntable population of elk to hunt in NC cause I doubt we’ll see many moose this way.

Please visit Moose’s blog and web site.

Tom Remington