October 4, 2017
WAYNESVILLE, NC – Friends of the Smokies received a $2,650 grant from Haywood County Tourism and Development Authority in support of enriching the Cataloochee Valley elk viewing experience. The funds provided training, uniforms, and materials for the Elk Bugle Corps and Bike Patrol, a group of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) volunteers who offer educational programs to tourists visiting Cataloochee Valley.
“Haywood County TDA’s ongoing support of the Elk Bugle Corps exemplifies the meaningfulness of partnerships between the national park and its gateway communities,” says Anna Zanetti, North Carolina Director of Friends of the Smokies. “As a local nonprofit, we are so grateful for our homegrown partnerships that enhances opportunities to experience Haywood County’s natural and cultural resources.”
Elk Bugle Corps volunteers provide a positive experience to visitors in Cataloochee Valley. Last year, over 83,000 people visited Cataloochee. By providing volunteers with uniforms, visitors are able to easily identify where to turn for information about the elk and other wildlife. Volunteer training allows the Elk Bugle Corps to assist GSMNP staff with traffic control and visitor safety during high visitation periods like the elk mating season in the fall. Training also enables volunteers to provide memorable presentations using elk skulls, fur, scat, and antlers to visitors in Cataloochee Valley, and outside the park in Haywood County and the greater Western North Carolina region.
Elk were extirpated throughout the Eastern U.S. by over-hunting and habitat destruction in the mid-1800s. Beginning in 2001, elk were reintroduced to GSMNP in 5-year program funded by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Friends of the Smokies, and Great Smoky Mountains Association. The best times to view elk are usually early morning and late evening using binoculars or a spotting scope for close-up views. Elk may also be active on cloudy summer days and before or after storms.