Suspect Apprehended in Smokies Elk Poaching
Contact: Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207
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. At around 10:30 a.m. on Friday, November 13 Rangers found the carcass of bull #21 lying along the edge of one of the pastures in the Cataloochee area in Haywood County, North Carolina. The animal was believed to have been shot and was taken to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy. The necropsy report has not yet been received.
An immediate investigation was initiated involving Park Rangers, and National Park Service (NPS) Special Agent, and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. A vehicle description lead them to a suspect from Granville County. An NPS Special Agent traveled to Granville County on Saturday where he located the suspect at his home. The suspect reportedly confessed to the offence.
The Park is working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to develop the case. The suspect’s name is not being released pending the filing of charges. Those 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.
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."
"While the loss of one bull elk may not jeopardize the success of the park’s elk program, we do see this as a very serious theft of the public’s enjoyment of their national park." Kloster continued. "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."