Wildlife expert explains reasoning behind euthanizing elk

Wildlife expert explains reasoning behind euthanizing elk in viral video

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In this case since the elk approached photographer James York, it was the animal who broke park rules. But wildlife experts say there are guidelines in place so that people won't make mistakes and cut an animal's life span short. In this case since the elk approached photographer James York, it was the animal who broke park rules. But wildlife experts say there are guidelines in place so that people won't make mistakes and cut an animal's life span short.
"He was always getting too close and I think probably his mother had taught him that," said Kathy Sherrard. "He was always getting too close and I think probably his mother had taught him that," said Kathy Sherrard.

By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

WEARS VALLEY (WATE) - Why did park rangers have to euthanize a young elk in the Smokies? That's the question many people are asking this weekend after park rangers decided to put down an elk shown head-butting a photographer in a viral video shot in the Cataloochee Valley.

We caught up with wildlife experts to find out if there were any other alternatives, 6 news learned the simple answer is no.

In this case since the elk approached photographer James York, it was the animal who broke park rules. But wildlife experts say there are guidelines in place so that people won't make mistakes and cut an animal's life span short.

Kathy Sherrard spent five years volunteering to educate visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains through the Elk Bugle Corp. She remembers encountering this elk shown in the viral video.

"He was always getting too close and I think probably his mother had taught him that," said Sherrard.

Sadly, the elk has been euthanized, which is devastating news to most of us. Sherrard believes the rangers had no choice but to put down the animal and adds moving it to a zoo or wildlife rehabilitation center wouldn't have helped.

"When they get to that point it's almost impossible to retrain them," she said.

Rangers made the decision saying the animal could become more aggressive.

"Elk are a lot bigger than bears are and yet people seem to be more afraid of bears then they are of the elk. And the elk have those pretty formidable antlers," said Sherrard.

Wildlife usually stays away from visitors, unless they've become used to feeding. "They aren't dangerous as long as people follow the rules," added Sherrard.

Those rules are simple: it's important to stay 50-yards, or half a football field, away from wildlife. Also, never touch, feed, or disturb animals.

"Wild animals should remain wild," said Sherrard.

If you're caught breaking any of these wildlife regulations in the Smoky Mountains you can be fined or arrested.

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