Saturday, September 13, 2014

Elk, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

On my visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park earlier this year, I drove to the far eastern side of the park where the Oconaluftee Visitor's Center is located, right outside of the small town of Cherokee. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of the Elk herd that had been seen in the fields the previous evening. I waited next to the field where the Elk had been the night before, but no Elk appeared.

So I moved on down to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in hopes of seeing them. One lone female Elk made an appearance that evening while I was there. And luckily, this she came out of the woods and moved almost all the way up to the edge of the Visitor Center. So I was able to get a few images, with my 300mm. As you can see, this Elk was not only tagged, but also bears a radio collar to track her movements. All of the Elk in the Smokies, both near Oconaluftee and in Cataloochee Valley were reintroduced into the park about ten years ago.

When I first arrived at the center, one of the park rangers standing at the edge of the parking lot mentioned to us that there was a possibility that the Elk may not come out to graze, as it was the height of the birthing season, and many of the female Elk were giving birth to new calves.

In the past, when I have photographed the Elk, it has been in Cataloochee Valley, which is also part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but is quite a distance from the main park boundaries, and is actually located in North Carolina. Aside from the added drive to reach this area of the park, the drive up and around the mountain to gain access to Cataloochee Valley itself is long and winding and, at times, arduous as you are hugging the side of the mountain. To make matters worse, the road is not paved, but gravel. So having an opportunity to see even one Elk on my trip, without having to make that drive to Cataloochee, was worth the waiting. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. The weather here has cooled off and will be in the 60's and 70's for the next week. Did I mention how happy that makes me. ENJOY!

1 comment :

  1. A real bonus, and with cooler days arriving or almost there, good times to be out .Gravel roads, here there are lots in remote areas, 4WD in some areas we go to, but not this year. So glad you were there at the perfect time, super photos .Cheers,Jean