Great Smoky officials criticized for killing elk

  • Posted: Monday, November 25, 2013 11:40 a.m.

ASHEVILLE (AP) — Officials at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park received around 100 letters and 200 Facebook posts about their decision to euthanize an elk that was seen harassing a photographer on a YouTube video, with most of the comments criticizing the decision to kill the animal earlier this month.

The video of the elk head-butting James York was put online Oct. 20 and has been viewed more than 2 million times. York was sitting along a trail taking photographs and was not hurt.

But Great Smoky officials were aware of the elk well before the video surfaced, park biologist Joe Yarkovich told the Citizen-Times of Asheville.

“The video is getting all the attention but what most people don’t realize is the history we had with this,” Yarkovich said.

The elk was first captured in September, and wildlife officials tried to make him fear humans by shooting the animal with paint balls and spraying it with pepper spray. Those methods failed, and a few days later, the elk was tagged. The animal was caught begging for food that same day. Yarkovich said.

Animals that don’t fear humans are dangerous, officials said. Rangers write tickets every year for those who are caught approaching or feeding animals, park spokeswoman Dana Soehn said.

“We really do depend on the public to act responsibly,” she said.

The only time the park has gotten more feedback for a decision is when officials killed a black bear that attacked a tourist in 2010.

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