Elk and wild Turkeys were spotted this last week in the area of the Oconoloftee Visitors Center in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, between the Smokemont Campground and the town of Cherokee on the highway, U.S. 441. I was off on vacation camping at the Smokemont Campground where I spotted these animals and the birds.
The Elk herd had been re-introduced back into the Great Smoky Mountains in about 2001 and seem to be doing quite well. I spotted 2 huge bulls and two unique groups of cow elk. I believe these are Roosevelt Elk but I am guessing about that. The turkeys were along side of the road on U.S. 441 as well.
The bull Elk ran into the area next to the parking lot of the Oconoloftee Visitors Center where it definitely was not supposed to be. Apparently there was an enticing small water hole with mud and the bull beelined straight for that mud and wallowed happily. After just a few moments, the elk was encouraged by a Federal employee (probably assigned to keep the elk in safe spots for themselves and the crowds of people observing the herd) via a pop of soft gun pellets and shouting to leave – and it quickly did.
I recommend going to Smokemont Campground in early Fall mid-week as it was uncrowded and had very clean restrooms and is beautiful (quite crowded in the areas near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge on the other side of the mountain an hour away). Please click on the thumbnail image to see the slightly larger version of the photo. Enjoy!