LAFOLLETTE, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- Imagine hearing a 700 pound bull Elk bugle a challenge to a rival male as you walk the forests of Tennessee.
It’s a sound being heard once again in East Tennessee thanks to a decades long effort by state wildlife officials to restore Elk to their natural habitat.
Elk were hunted to extinction in Tennessee in the 1800s. Following the transplant of a few Elk into the Cumberland Mountains 20 years ago, the Tennessee herd has now grown to about 400 animals.
Brad Miller is Elk Program Leader for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
“Our population is slowly growing. This year has been a really good year for calf production. We’re seeing a lot of calves.”
Ranger Miller says the reintroduction of Elk into East Tennessee has been relatively problem free, but notes there have been some hiccups along the way.
“We selected the Cumberland Mountains due to, you know, relatively low human population. It was a place intended to have minimal Elk conflicts, but you still have Elk that wander into private properties.”
And if a 700 pound bull Elk does stop by for a visit, some damage likely will be done. Still, Miller says seeing an Elk in the wild is an unforgettable experience.
“Just the majesty of them. They’re a pretty graceful and elegant animal to be as large as they are. A big deer might be a couple hundred pounds. We have big (Elk) bulls that are high 700s, nearly 800 pounds.”
You can check in on Tennessee’s Elk herd anytime you like. The state operates a web camera on land where the herd routinely grazes.