Saturday, August 25, 2012

Elk!

On the return trip from Pigeon Forge, we detoured to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to Cataloochee in the Maggie Valley.  In 2001, 25 elk were relocated from Kentucky, Land Between the Lakes, to the Park.  In 2002, another 27 were imported.  All were collared and monitored during the 8 years of the experimental part of the project.  In 2009-2010, they began developing an environmental assessment of the program and a long-term management program for the elk.  We knew that we would need to be there early in the day or late in the evening in order to see them.  So, we set out from Pigeon Forge at 5am, arriving at the park at 7am.  We began our descent into the valley, along a 10-mile gravel road, with steep drop-offs and no guard rails.

When we arrived in the valley, our first sighting was along the road, just on the other side of the opposite lane.  A beautiful bull elk was calmly grazing along the roadside.

Had to use the flash - it was still pretty dark in the hills!
A short distance later, we saw 2 more bulls grazing beside the Ranger Station.

Imagine looking out your front door and seeing this sight!
 A little farther along, we saw 5 more - cows and calves.


It was wonderful fun to be able to stand up in the seat of the car, with my head out of the sun roof, and my 150-500mm lens resting on the top of the car!  Safety...that's the ticket here.  The bulls can weigh 600 - 700 lbs, and are 7 - 10 ft long, nose to tail, and 4 - 5' tall at the shoulder.  Females are slightly smaller - weighing an average of 500 lbs.  The calves weigh about 35 lbs. at birth!  They are the biggest animals in the park, and can be quite aggressive if they feel threatened.  It is a federal offense to willingly approach the elk within 50 yards - with a hefty fine!  Of course, when they are in the road...you just don't want to get out of the car!

Linking to Camera Critters.

24 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Great shots of the Elk, Linda! It is neat that they have a management program for the elk. A lot of people just enjoy seeing the critters. Have a great weekend.

Dianna said...

Wow! I've never seen one "in person". Great pictures - and welcome back!

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

Those are some impressive creatures! It must have been an awesome experience to see them that close. Great captures!

Jessica Cassidy said...

beautiful shots...love their horns
:-) Dropping by from Camera Critters :-)

Hanne Bente said...

Nice pictures you show.
Thank you for visiting my blog :)
Hanne Bente

Pat said...

What great captures! They are beautiful to see.

Terri Buster said...

Wow- what a sight to see- you timed your visit perfectly!

Jan n Jer said...

Wow..what a thrill to see them in the wild! A few years ago during a trip to Vermont..I was able to get a shot of an Elk through the window...it wasnt very good but I saved it! Your pics are outstanding!

Rajesh said...

Wonderful shots of elk. They are having a great time.

TexWisGirl said...

so beautiful! glad you got to see and photograph them (safely!) :)

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Fantastic captures Linda, the bull elks are indeed quite an impressive size and of course you wouldn't want to get anywhere near those antlers! A very unusual sight to see outside your door indeed! Hope all is well with you both and that you had a marvelous break.

Brian King said...

Fantastic shots! Getting there early was the right decision. Love the antlers on those bulls!

Nikki-ann said...

Excellent shots of the Elk. I also love your header image taken in Ireland... a stunning view!

Cheryl @ TFD said...

These are wonderful shots, Linda! The elk are so big and, wow, look at those antlers!! Glad you got there early enough to see them from the safety of your car. I'd love to see the Smoky Mountains, we haven't ruled them out yet. Depends on how much time we have.
Have a great weekend!!

Carol Loethen said...

nice pics!

EG CameraGirl said...

Definitely worth the scary-sounding drive. :))

joanne said...

great shots of these impressive creatures.....

Val said...

early birds get the photographs!! Great shots.

Grandma Barb's This and That said...

Wonderful shots of the elk. What a thrill it would be to see them so close up!

Anni said...

Y' just don't see anything like THIS in my neck of the woods!!!

Awesome images Linda

Red said...

Yes, you don't mess with elk. they are beautiful creatures but keep your distance. In Banff and Jasper they have tried to push them out of town as tourists get too close to them.

Carol said...

Great shots!!! I love seeing wildlife up close but safely in the car :0)

chubskulit said...

Captured so beautifully. Hopping by from Camera Critters.

My Critter post, come and see when you get a chance.
Have a lovely Sunday!

PS.. I love your header.

NixBlog said...

These are great captures, Linda!