Elk In North Carolina: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Amin Tawar

Elk In North Carolina
Elk In North Carolina: Everything You Need To Know About Them

The recovery of this magnificent animal — Elk, to its native Southern Appalachian home, is nothing less than triumphant. Below In this article, I’ve explained everything you need to know about the elk in North Carolina, their return to the state, and where you can spot one in the North Carolina wild. 

Are There Any Elk In North Carolina?

At this moment, elk wander around the North Carolina peaks more than at any period in the past 200 years. Centuries back, extensive herds of elk wandered in the southern Appalachians and all over North America. 

European settlers arrived and unsustainable hunting practices began. This led to a reduction in population late 18th century and even became extinct in the 1790s in the state. This is why many are surprised to know that wild elk roamed in the Smoky Mountains today.

How Many Elk Are In North Carolina?

The number of elk has grown from a mere 52 animals being let out in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to a counted number of 150 to 200 cows and bulls on private lands of Asheville and on Cherokee lands.

How did elk get into North Carolina?

Elk In North Carolina
Elk In North Carolina: Everything You Need To Know About Them

It all started in 2001, when 52 elk were moved to the state from the Elk Island National Park in Alberta, Canada, and the Land Between the Lakes area in Kentucky. These animals were let to roam in Cataloochee Valley situated within the western border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Experts in the National Park Service equipped them with radio collars to get as much information as possible regarding these new inhabitants. The initial suggestion was categorized as a testing release with a plan to assess if, and how, elk can make a living in the area. 

Years were consumed recording elk movements, calf production, survival rates, and assessing habitat usage. Flash forward to now and the reply to that question is a YES. And elk did not only survive in North Carolina but thrived.

Also Read our Guide On Elks In Michigan

Where Can I See Elk In North Carolina?

Stroll over the Cataloochee Valley area which is located in the southeastern region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park neighboring the Maggie Valley, N.C. This is the most well-known spot to view elk and there are more possibilities to witness one here. 

Though they are commonly seen in the valley, a few migrate to other regions including the Oconaluftee River Trail, Maggie Valley, and Ravensford area, and the fields of the Eastern Band in Cherokee. 

In the Cherokee region, you are likely to spot elk grazing in the fields or near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Sometimes, when strolling the 1.5 miles of Oconaluftee River Trail, you can spot a few of them near the water bodies and on the trail.

Best Time To See Elk In North Carolina?

If you are preparing a trip to see the elk in North Carolina, then the best time is to go late in the evening or early in the morning. This is because elk like to forage in cool temperatures, so they are out to graze at these hours of the day. Also, summer, spring, and fall are the best time of the year to spot male elks. 

This is because male elks are often spotted grazing in low-lying fields during this time and in winter they go up into the mountains. In winter you can see only claves and females in the valleys in smaller groups. You can spot them around 3 to 4 pm, though sighting is unexpected in the winter. 

What County Are Elk In North Carolina?

Haywood County in North Carolina is the biggest lure of elk watchers. As the Cataloochee Valley is situated in the county, this isolated area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect spot for the elk population to roam around freely. 

Can You Hunt & Shoot Elk In North Carolina?

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission staff have proposed an elk hunting season in western N.C. This proposition calls for permit-only hunting, likely selected by lottery, in the 2024 October to November season. If the proposal gets approved, then the state will join hands with Tennessee and Kentucky in the Southeast with elk hunting. 

Also, the herd’s size will determine the number of permits that will be issued. That state has also mentioned that any elk hunt season that is supported in North Carolina will not impact laws against the hunting of animals in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

Also Check Our Guide On Elk In America


And that was everything you need to know about the Elk In North Carolina. I hope this article answered all your queries.

Thank You For Reading!

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