Welcome to Hiking the Carolinas

Return to the Home Page

Return of the Elk continued

To view the elk, the visitors were organized into three groups. In order to walk up to the acclimation pen, you had to draw a number to be assigned to one of the groups. The acclimation  pen was a 1000 foot muddy walk up the Big Fork Ridge Trail. The pen itself was a well planned design. To minimize the trauma of the release, the viewing area that the public was to use was limited. A wooden fence was built near the release area of the pen so that the  exposure of the spectators to the elk was minimal. The pen was also built in an area that had a small hill so that the elk could hide from "prying eyes". 

Early in the morning, during the briefing by officials, we were warned of the many scenarios that might occur. Biologist Kim Delozier warned that we may see elk that emerge from the trailers with broken legs or shoulders. He went of to say that we may see elk panic and run into a tree or escape into the surrounding forest. In the event of any of these occurrences, the park service was fully prepared to address these potential problems. Fortunately, none of this happened. 

As the gate to the cattle carriers  were opened, the  tension in the air could be felt. No one knew  how the elk would leave the trailer. Of all three releases, none were the same. One common denominator was true, after the gates were opened there was a  pause before the elk stormed out of the trailer. Although the pause of a few seconds seemed like an eternity, it was followed by the sound of hooves on the metal floor of the trailer. Most of the elk ran for a distance of 40 or 50 feet and paused to get their "bearings". Some stopped to graze on the few patches of grass in the pen, some continued over the hill and out of site. All of the elk would eventually wander out of site.

Until the final release of the elk into the wild in April, the acclimation pen will be off limits to the general public. As a result, the Big Fork Ridge Trail will be closed. We will stay in contact with the Park Service to learn of any additional     information. If the final release is open to the public, we will post the details on this web site.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger image

For further information:

The National Park Service>>
Rocky Mountain Elk Association>>
Friends of the Smokies>>
Elk Facts>>
Elk Subspecies>>

  to the page that you came from