Elk Carolina

North Carolina's Smoky Mountains

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Rut ends and same Alpha bull reigns -- 2016

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

Late October on the Elk lands at Oconaluftee and the herd has the same Alpha bull. A 3 year old bull almost managed to overcome the reign of the 8 year old Big Bull after his 3 year hold on the harem.

After much sparring and at times intense competiton, at the end the Old Bull held reign.

This year at Oconaluftee 12 calves are new to the herd. The rut over, the herd now in relative peace, calves fattening up for winter, cows in gestation, the bulls will soon spread out to Cherokee and beyond. We should see a herd of almost 30 over the winter on the Elk lands at Oconaluftee.



Mother cow and two month old calf

smoky mountain elk calf oconaluftee cherokee north carolina

  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.
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