Elk does damage at Maggie cabins
Susie and Marc Lynn only took over ownership of Mountain Joy Cottages in Maggie Valley two weeks ago, but already a furry neighbor, Jeffrey, has welcomed them to Setzer Cove Road.
Susie said she has seen the elk grazing in the field adjacent to her cabins, but it wasn’t causing any problem until last Saturday when he got a little braver. The bull elk started coming closer to the office building and got a trash bag stuck on his tall antlers while nosing through the garbage.
The elk became frustrated and began ramming the wooden playground equipment on the property. Susie said it knocked down the swing set and scattered the playground pieces all around. Susie’s daughter was able to get close enough at one point from the safety of the porch to remove the trash bag from its head, but Jeffrey returned later with another problem.
“He came back last (Sunday) night with a cable connected to his antlers dragging 20 feet behind him,” Susie said. “He was trying to get it off himself by ramming his antlers into everything.”
Susie called North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission over the weekend but wasn’t able to get ahold of anyone until Monday morning.
After speaking to Susie on the phone, District Wildlife Biologist Justin McVey said, “Oh, that must be Jeffrey.”
McVey said he named the 6-year-old elk Jeffrey a couple of years ago when he encountered him and another bull running together near a retirement community in Maggie.
“I wouldn’t call him an angry elk — he’s just trying to get that cable off of his antlers,” he said.
McVey also had a run in with Jeffrey last year when he got a lasso stuck around his neck. Because of the choking hazard, the elk had to be immobilized to remove the lasso. He’s also received second-hand reports of Jeffrey knocking over an oil tank on someone’s property farther up Setzer Cove Road.
McVey checked on Jeffrey Monday afternoon and while the cable was attached to his antlers, it didn’t seem to be bothering him as he grazed in the field calmly.
“We look at these things on a case by case basis, including the welfare of the elk and the welfare of other people around,” McVey said. “In this particular case, especially knowing of him being docile in the past, we didn’t feel like we needed to immobilize him right away.”
He said he would continue to monitor the elk to see if it’s able to get the cable removed on its own because immobilizing the animal to remove the cable could be dangerous considering the freezing weather. A tranquilizer could put the 700-pound elk out for 90 minutes and could significantly lower his body temperature.
McVey said Jeffrey should be shedding those antlers soon anyway, which would solve the cable problem.
Susie said she warned all of her guests to be cautious of the elk and not to get too close or do anything to startle the animal. She said the family enjoyed having it around, but were just worried about him damaging their newly acquired business.
According to the Great Smoky Mountain Park Service, park wildlife biologists had a problem in October when a young male elk approached a photographer in Cataloochee while sitting alongside the road taking pictures. The encounter led to an elk being euthanized, something that is always a last resort.
The elk had likely been fed by visitors and had lost his instinctive fear of humans. It associated humans with food and had been approaching visitors seeking handouts. The elk did not respond to attempts by biologists to change its behavior and displayed an unacceptable risk to human safety.
When wildlife exhibits this behavior it often escalates to more aggressive behavior creating a dangerous situation for visitors and the park made the decision to euthanize the elk.
“People should observe elk from a distance and never feed these animals,” McVey said. “They can become desensitized to humans and start to become too comfortable with people and that causes a lot of problems.”
For more information on how to safely view wildlife, visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/wildlifeviewing.htm.
To report any issues with elk, contact the district wildlife office at 273-7980.