Ann Clayton, a retired educator and Elk Bugle Corps volunteer, has written a children’s book about the elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park–Bully for you, Elk 22. It’s a sweet story about an elk who was bullied in the Smokies.
Ann took a story that was being told about an elk in the park who caused a lot of trouble on private land. In the real story, the elk left the park and caused a great deal of damage. He broke fences, trampled gardens and had several run-ins with vehicles. The park biologists finally had to put him down.
In Ann’s book, nothing like that happens. No. 22 is bullied by bigger elk and tries to find his herd. Every encounter turns into a lesson and finally Elk no. 22 finds happiness with a group of females. Lots of other animals are involved and everyone lives happily ever after.
But not in real life. A few days ago, the Asheville Citizen-Times ran a story about the damage that elk are creating on private land. Visitors love seeing the elk in Cataloochee. I led a hike there yesterday and we saw lots of elk at the end of mating season.
But what happens in farmers’ fields is a different story. The elk are doing exactly what no. 22 was doing. Now that the elk are no longer an experiment, they are the responsibility of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. But all the commission is doing is offering guidance to farmers on sturdy fences and shooting elk with rubber bullets.
Eventually, when enough elk move into the National Forest, you’ll be able to shoot an elk with real bullets. But that’s a long time from now. The elk seem to prefer corn fields to a wilderness area. Can you blame them?