Elk Carolina

North Carolina's Smoky Mountains

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smoky mountain elk calf oconaluftee cherokee north carolina

Calving Season on the Elk Lands

News: First calf seen up an running at Oconaluftee! June 21, 2016.

Late spring is calving season on the Elk lands. Mother cows seeking solitude and safety find separate places to birth their calves. Not only do moms wish to keep predators from finding their babes, but also other Elk. You can just imagine the injury a 5 foot tall Elk with hard hooves could do to a baby Elk.

Moms hiding newborn babes is the reason the herd is dispersed, and will be so until the calves can run from danger. Until then what we will see of the herd are yearlings and cows who have not birthed yet.

In 2015, 10 calves were born. One calf was hit by a car and so 9 survived. This year we expect to see 13 calves in the Smoky Mountain Oconaluftee herd about the first of July.

big bull of the smoky mountain elk herd at oconaluftee cherokee north carolina

Big Bull of Oconaluftee


 Elk returned to the Carolina mountains 15 years ago. There are now as many as 200 Elk in the Carolina Smokies. Spread out across many square miles the Elk are probably going to survive. Many calves survive their first year. Male calves grow into bulls, grow antlers and wander off on their own in their second year. In summer the Elk herd for mating and the bulls spar for dominance.

bulls of the smoky mountain elk herd sparring oconaluftee cherokee north carolina

calf of the smoky mountain elk herd oconaluftee cherokee north carolina

Calves are born in late spring. Barely able to walk they hide in the woods until able to walk. Before long they are eating grass but continue to nurse for months. It takes about one year for a calf to reach almost full size. One cow that recently died was estimated to have lived 22 years. Automobile collisions are the main killers of these Elk. There are few wolves or panthers in the Smokies. Bears have been known to prey upon calves, but once a calf can run, bears can't bother them. >>>> Links