Put safety first as elk herd enjoys 21st rut season

Absent from the Smoky Mountain landscape for 150 years, elk staged a return in 2001 with help from park biologists and resource managers. Provided by Joye Ardyn Durham.

While humans are focused on world events and weather updates, elk have only one thing on their minds. From now to early November, hormones kick in and these large ungulates go into overdrive. During the fall breeding season, bulls’ antlers reach maturity, and their ethereal bugling calls resonate through fields and forests within the park […]

Echoes in the mountains: The next generation

Images by Phoebe Carnes The early morning mist had just dissipated as the sun began to rise over the mountains. The Oconaluftee River was clear and cold, rejuvenated from a light shower the previous night. A cow watched me warily from the forest, ears up and nostrils twitching as she deciphered my scent. A fuzzy […]

Echoes in the mountains: A herd in sacred waters

Images by Phoebe Carnes Before I began observing elk in Smokies, I never thought of them as water-loving creatures. But it wasn’t long before I learned that the elk here have a profound relationship with the Oconaluftee River that is as fascinating as it is multifaceted. The Oconaluftee River (or Egwanulti) is considered to be sacred […]

Echoes in the Mountains: On bulls and close encounters

Dominant bull elk like Bull B closely guard groups of female elk known as 'harems'.

When I first started studying the bull elk of Oconaluftee last fall, I quickly learned that each male is an individual. They each have their own quirks that make them easily recognizable. One of the first males I began to study was a bull who goes by the name of “B” within the park service. […]