Wildlife: Winter, 2009
Elk shot, suspect charged
From November NPS press releases:
Charges are pending against a Granville County, North Carolina man who is a suspected of shooting a bull elk inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is the first poaching since the park reintroduced elk in 2001. On November 13 park rangers found the carcass of bull #21 lying along the edge of one of the pastures in the Cataloochee area on the North Carolina side of the park.
Acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster said, “The suspect was quickly identified and a strong case developed because of the willingness of members of the community to come forward and talk to Rangers and state wildlife officers. The many visitors and volunteers who come to Cataloochee expressly to watch the elk constitute a very effective surveillance network which has undoubtedly prevented elk poaching from occurring earlier."
Park rangers, a National Park Service (NPS) Special Agent, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission traveled to the identified suspect’s home, where he reportedly confessed to the poaching. The park is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to develop the case. People convicted of poaching in a national park can face up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Offenders can also be forced to forfeit the weapon and the vehicle used in the crime.
What does this mean for the elk population, which wildlife biologists estimate is at about 105 animals, as a whole? “While the loss of one bull elk may not jeopardize the success of the Park’s Elk Program,” Steve Kloster said, “we do see this as a very serious theft of the public’s enjoyment of their national park. Thousands of visitors come to see these elk each year, and many of them know each animal by sight. Number 21 was one of the largest and most majestic breeding bulls in the herd, so he will certainly be missed.”
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