An elk hunting season was approved unanimously by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
On February 11, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) convened to discuss several topics, one which included whether or not they would allow elk hunting in the western part of the state. The unanimous vote of approval is sure to please potential elk hunters in what will be the third eastern state to allow a season for the coveted big game animals.
In light of recent events, landowners and farmers voiced their concerns to the Commission about property damage and harassment of livestock. The unanimous vote places North Carolina among Tennessee and Kentucky in the eastern United States that have an elk hunting season.
The season will run from Oct. 1, to Nov. 1, but will not commence in 2016, according to NCWRC spokeswoman Margaret Martin. The hunting land will include areas that border the Great Smoky Mountains with a herd ranging from 150 to 200. Biologists will have to determine how many losses the herd can withstand in order to maintain a healthy number.
To put it in context, Tennessee has a herd of around 400 elk and only allows six bulls to be harvested each year. With those numbers in mind, North Carolina will likely only allow three or four bulls to be harvested. Due to the low number, hunters will have to apply for an elk permit through a lottery system.
During the early 2000s, 52 elk were introduced into the Great Smoky Mountains and have since moved into neighboring counties. During the 1800s, the thriving herd had been decimated, and only in the last decade have they started maintaining a healthy population after their introduction.
Numerous landowners such as the ones in Haywood County recently complained about elk causing damage to their property. This, along with other voiced concerns, has given the NCWRC a reason to open a season nearly 15 years since the elk were introduced. Even though a 2016 season is doubtful, hunters can look forward to entering the lottery for next year’s hunt.