In the right hand edge of the photo you will see my red, white, and blue RE/MAX All Pro, Realtors sign in the Hayman’s yard. If you look closely in the center of the photo in the fog you will see something MUCH larger. This is one of the elk that strayed from the nearby Smoky Mountain National Park. Although very shy of humans and absolutely no danger to anyone, they are imposing simply because of their size. A full grown male elk is a huge animal with adult males weighing an average of 600-700 pounds while cows average 500 pounds. Adults are 7-10 feet long from nose to tail and stand 4 1/2 – 5 feet tall at the shoulder. Adult males have antlers that may reach a width of five feet.
The eastern subspecies of the North American elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) was apparently abundant in Tennessee prior to the area being settled by Europeans. Early records describe elk living with buffalo, deer, bear and other wildlife. As settlement of the eastern United States accelerated, the elk were eliminated from the landscape. The eastern subspecies was completely eliminated from its historical range. Records indicate that the last elk in east Tennessee was shot in 1849.
The effort to reintroduce elk to the area began in 2001 and since then some 52 animals have been released in Eastern Tennessee. While it is uncertain how many animals are alive currently there have been calf sightings and efforts are underway to conduct a census of the animals. All of the released animals were tagged with radio telemetry units to monitor their movements and activity. Plans call for additional elk to be released within the next four years and it is hoped that the herd will eventually be self sustaining. With no natural predators remaining and the shelter of the park this looks to be a very achievable goal.
Another species that needs no efforts to revitalize in the Smokies is the wild turkey. Although Thomas Jefferson campaigned for this animal to be our national symbol instead of the bald eagle that effort failed and turkeys are now best used for hunting. They aren’t however very hard to find and in fact I recently took the picture below from my car window while putting up for sale signs in the Chalet Village area of Gatlinburg.
Though they don’t look like much in this photo they are truly spectacular birds especially if you happen to catch one in full display with its wings up and feathers fanned out.
If you would like to know more about what it is like to live in the Smokies or anything about our local real estate here in the Gatlinburg area please don’t hesitate to contact us. We consider ourselves truly blessed to live here!