Great Smoky Mountains National Park
October 8, 2009
Elk were reintroduced into Tennessee after being hunted into extinction nearly 150 years ago. By autumn the large males (bulls) sport huge antlers (which can grow up to 1" per day!), they will lose them in March. Elk are herbivores, they eat grass, low-growing plants, twigs and tree bark. Like deer, cattle, and goats, they are ruminant animals with a four-chambered stomach.
In September through mid-October the males establish a "harem" of cows and their calves. They aggressively defend them from rival males through "bugling" (a shrill, high-pitched call that can be heard up to a mile) and by intimidating them with their large display of antlers. A full-grown bull can weigh up to 700 pounds and stand 5 feet tall at the shoulder. Cows average 500 pounds and although they do not have antlers, they will protect their calves. Elk should never be approached!