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First Elk to be Born in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Posted: June 26, 2005

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials reported exciting news with the birth of a 40-pound male elk calf, the first to be born in the Smokies in over 150 years and the first to be delivered by the eight pregnant cow elk in the herd. The calf was evidently born on Friday, June 22, 2005, but was not located until Sunday evening hidden in a blackberry thicket close to the meadows in Cataloochee Valley.

The University of Tennessee graduate student who is conducting on-site monitoring of the experimental elk release project began searching for the newborn after being alerted on Friday by ejection of transmitter implant from the female cow. All the pregnant female elk were implanted with transmitters in the birth canal to help biologists know when the calves were born. Biologists believed earlier that 9 of the 12 females in the herd were pregnant, but learned later that there are only 8 pregnant cows.

Saturday morning the researchers, using telemetry devices, located the implant transmitter and the apparent site of the delivery, but it took another day and a half of searching to locate the calf. The calf was found about 1/3 of a mile from the site of the delivery. According to Park Wildlife Biologist Kim Delozier cow elk typically move their newborn calves some distance from the site of delivery as a survival mechanism.

"Elk calves are most vulnerable to predators in the first few days after birth and the mothers will distance them from the birthing site which could attract predators."

Biologists placed an expandable radio collar on the new calf to help them learn about the survival rate in the wild, an important part of the 5-year experimental project. The animals in the Smokies experiment all came from a wild herd at Land between the Lakes in Kentucky where they have not been exposed to bears or other potential predators.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Michael J. Tollefson said, "We are pleased with this announcement and the success of the elk experiment to date. We ask that the public be good stewards and not to approach the elk, particularly female elk with calves which are known to charge people in defense of their offspring and will probably rejoin the herd in a couple of weeks."


   
 
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