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Friday, February 03, 2006

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: More Elk?

Image: Healthy elk grazing in the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States. They were eliminated from the region by over-hunting and loss of habitat. The last elk in North Carolina was believed to have been killed in the late 1700's. In Tennessee, the last elk was killed in the mid-1800’s. By 1900, the population of elk in North America dropped to the point that hunting groups and conservation organizations became concerned that the species was headed for extinction.

The experimental release of elk into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park began in February, 2001 with the importation of 25 elk. In 2003, the Park Service imported another 17 animals. All elk are radio-collared and will be monitored during the five year experimental phase of the project.

Now, officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park want to import more elk, but because of a state rule prohibiting the import of deer, elk and related species, they have yet to be given the okay from the state agency that makes that decision.

This from WKYT in Kentucky:

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been thwarted in its attempt to import as many as 30 elk into the park from Kentucky because of a state rule prohibiting the import of deer, elk and related species. The N.C. Wildlife Commission adopted that rule in May 2002 to prevent the introduction of chronic wasting disease into North Carolina.

Chronic wasting disease, which is untreatable and always fatal, has infected animals in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. It has not been detected in North Carolina.

Image: Bull Elk with Chronic Wasting Disease.

To read the rest of the article that the above excerpts were taken from click here.

To learn about Chronic Wasting Disease click here.

You may also be interested in this article, "Chronic Wasting Disease and Potential Transmission to Humans," on the CDC website.

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