Three elk from the Smoky Mountain elk herd were killed recently in Haywood County.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is in the process of investigating three Great Smoky Mountain elk that were recently killed on a farm in Haywood County, reported by the Asheville Citizen-Times. Wildlife Officers of the NCWRC received a call on Feb. 5, from the owner of the farm that the elk had been killed.
In North Carolina, elk are protected and have been since their introduction into the Cataloochee Area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in the 2001. This was an effort to reintroduce the elk population after it had been decimated during the 1800s.
Lt. Sam Craft of the Commission commented that officers are looking into the situation as to whether or not the elk were killed because of depredation, which is essentially when an animal is killed because it is damaging crops or being a nuisance to livestock. If, in fact, the elk were taken due to depredation, then it is legal, however whoever harvested them would not be able to keep the elk unless they had a depredation permit.
Otherwise it is strictly prohibited to harvest elk, especially inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Since their introduction in 2001, the elk herd has climbed to somewhere between 140 and 160 animals. Some of the herd has left the park, and landowners have had issues with the elk damaging property. Wildlife biologists believe that a limited harvest could take place, and that the herd could still survive, however we will not know until a decision is made by the Commission on Feb. 11.
If you would like to learn more about the NCWRC and their conservation efforts you can learn more here.