Canon 1DmkIII with Canon 70-200 L f2.8 @f4, ISO 800 and 1/1250.
This bull was letting his voice be heard during the rut in Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The elk were reintroduced more than 10 years ago and have been a success story with almost everyone happy to have them back. They were hunted to extinction in the Smoky Mountains in the 1800’s. Their success story contrasts with the failure of the red wolf reintroduction that was attempted at the same time.
Reintroducing wildlife species is a subject that many folks associate with the wolves of Yellowstone. The reintroduction of any species with have an affect on both the current wildlife and the humans that inhabit a particular habitat.
For wildlife lovers it seems to be a no-brainer. “Bring ’em back” most nature lovers will say. I fall into this category but there is always a counter point. Especially, when livelihoods are at stake. The conflict between the ranchers and the wolves has been well documented. The ranchers have lost livestock and income generated by elk hunters. That a top predator creates a better environmental balance doesn’t carry much weight when you are putting food on the table for your family.
Ironically, elk reintroduction has met with some opposition from farmers who are concerned that the elk will destroy crops and some elk have been shot off of National Park land even though there is not a hunting season for elk in Tennessee or North Carolina.
So is there a solution to the issue of a reintroduced species affecting the livelihoods of people that coexist with?
I think that there are. Common sense rules and laws would allow this coexistence. If a predator is taking livestock then allow the rancher to at least drive the predator away and if the predator continues have a means to remove that animal or animals from the area. note: This is being done out west with the wolves now but wasn’t earlier in the reintroduction. If a farmer is losing crop production due to the grazing of a herbivore allow the farmer to again drive that animal away and if it persists have an avenue for the farmer to get rid of the animal.
But, far better yet, allow innovative minds come up with ways to prevent or reduce the conflict from happening in the first place.