One of five in a series on the wildlife of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Elk were reintroduced to the park in 2001, after becoming locally extinct in the eastern United States in the 1800s due to unregulated hunting. 15 years later, the program has been deemed a resounding success, with the size of the herd having grown from the original population of 25 to somewhere between 150 and 200. The initial years proved to be a time of slow growth, however, as the transplanted elk were not accustomed to protecting their young from unfamiliar predators such as black bears. Eventually, the elk acclimated to these new conditions and now have a unique ecological role in the park; for example, shed antlers provide a valuable source of calcium for small mammals.
The population has grown to the extent that some elk have left the boundaries of the park and encroached on farmland, where their fearlessness towards humans (a factor that contributed to initial overhunting) can make them a nuisance to farmers and their crops. The state of North Carolina is now in debate over how to effectively distribute hunting permits - which brings the story of the elk full circle.
This is a gallery-quality giclée art print on 100% cotton rag archival paper, printed with archival inks. Each art print is listed by sheet size and features a minimum one-inch border.