The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an abundance of wildlife and it is a real treat to get to see a bear, deer or elk during your visit. You will, of course, want to get photos of these beautiful creatures but it is important to make sure you do so safely. We have covered bear safety in previous blogs and will likely revisit the topic in the future. Today, we will focus on Elk.
The best place in the Smokies to view Elk is in Cataloochee Valley, which is definitely worth the trip. There are large fields where the Elk congregate and there are beautiful historic buildings to explore and lots of lovely streams. It is the perfect place to take photos! For most of the year, elk are fairly docile. However, during the annual Rut, or mating season, they can become extremely aggressive. Following are a few tips to help you get your photos and enjoy the experience without putting you or your loved ones in danger.
Stay Close to Your Car
While it may be tempting to venture closer to get a better shot, this is an unwise decision. Elk are very large and very fast. Should you be charged, you will want to retreat to the safety of your vehicle. If you are more than a few feet away, the elk can likely get there faster than you can! Bring along binoculars and/or a telephoto lens so you can still get that great shot!
Maintain a distance of 50 yards from Elk
Not only is this smart, it is also the law! Wild animals can be unpredictable and if they feel threatened, they can become aggressive. If your presence causes the animal to change its behavior in any way, you are too close! If the animal stops walking abruptly, changes direction or stops eating, you have affected its behavior and need to back off.
Keep pets in the car
While you may want to keep your dog with you or let them explore while you take a few photos, this is not a good idea. The presence of an unfamiliar animal can provoke an elk and place you and your pet in danger. Leave your animal in the car!