Keeping track in the Smokies

Jan 17, 2014
Photo by: Donated photo Park biologists working to place radio collar on tranquilized elk in Cataloochee Valley.

Friends of the Smokies has received a grant for $13,720 from Charter Communications, Inc. for support of wildlife management in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The grant provides for the purchase of 15 radio collars and 2 receivers for tracking and monitoring elk throughout the Park.

Two hundred years ago elk roamed the southern Appalachian mountains and elsewhere in the eastern United States. With the financial and in-kind support from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association and The University of Tennessee; the Park began reintroducing elk in Cataloochee Valley in 2001.

Initially, all elk were fitted with radio collars allowing biologists to efficiently monitor the growth, survival, and movements of the population.  As the elk herd grows, today numbering at least 120 animals, biologists continue to monitor a subset of the herd annually to monitor population dynamics particularly focusing on newborn calves and females.  This donation helps provide much needed collars to fit the calves and five adult females per year along with any nuisance animals.

“Charter is a communications and technology company,” said Joe Pell, vice president and general manager for Charter’s operations in Louisiana and Tennessee. “Funding the radio telemetry that Park biologists use to ensure the elk’s success fits with our company’s focus.”

Radio-transmitters are one of the most useful instruments to help track animal locations and survival. This is true, not only for elk, but other wildlife species as well.  Information gained from the use of radio telemetry equipment has been vital in making short and long-term management decisions regarding bears, elk and bats within the Park, and continues to be an integral part of ongoing wildlife monitoring and management efforts.

“We find it very satisfying to have a healthy elk herd. Our job is to help maintain that by giving them the supplies they need,” says Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies.

Mark Spilman, vice president and general manager for Charter’s operations in the Carolinas and Virginia adds, “The Great Smoky Mountains is the country’s most visited National Park. Many of our own employees that live and work in the region have experienced seeing these majestic animals thrive in Cataloochee.  And now, they are officially  a “Friend of the Smokies.”

For more information about the programs mentioned here, visit the park’s website atwww.nps.gov/grsm.  To learn more about Friends of the Smokies, go to www.friendsofthesmokies.org.

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