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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Elk breeding season
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are reminding park visitors to exercise caution as they view and photograph elk, in an effort to protect both the animals and themselves. Elk have entered the fall breeding season, known as the rut. As a result, from September 1 through October 31, fields in Cataloochee and Oconaluftee are closed to all users. Even when elk are not present, people are not allowed to walk into the fields. During the rut, male elk make bugling calls to challenge other bulls and attract cows. Dominant bulls use the fields to gather and breed with harems of up to 20 cows. Bull elk actively defend their territory by charging and sparring with competitors using their antlers to intimidate and spar with other males. Bulls are much more aggressive toward people and vehicles this time of year. Encroaching too close may lead a bull to perceive you or your vehicle as a threat causing them to charge. “Bull elk, which can weigh nearly 1,000 pounds, are wild animals with unpredictable behavior,” says park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. “To help ensure your safety, maintain a distance of at least 50 yards from them at all times. Park in a safe location and remain close to your vehicle so that you can get inside if an elk approaches.” Visitors are encouraged to use binoculars, spotting scopes, or cameras with telephoto lenses to best view and photograph wildlife. Feeding, touching, or disturbing any wildlife, as well as willfully approaching bear or elk within 50 yards, or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife--are all illegal in the park. If approached by an elk, visitors should slowly back away to create space for the animal to pass. If viewing elk near roadways, pull completely off the road, and remain in or next to your vehicle at a safe distance from the animal. For more information about elk in the park, and to watch a short video about elk viewing safety, visit www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/ elk.htm


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