Meet the Managers: Wildlife Management
This month, meet the people and projects in Wildlife Management and Science. A great diversity of wildlife lives in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Endangered bats flutter through forests at night, and at dusk elk roam through the remote Cataloochee valley. If you're lucky, you might glimpse a bear taking a nap on a tree branch, or an otter slipping into a shady pool. From the streams to the skies, animals here have one thing in common: their well-being depends on good management by the park's wildlife management team.
What is wildlife management?
Ever since the early years of the national park in the 1930s, rangers have been responsible for the health of wildlife within its boundaries. For many years, though, there weren't separate resource management rangers, education rangers, and law enforcement rangers-there were just "park rangers," and these people did it all. Gradually, as park visitation increased, rangers who dealt with wildlife became more specialized: they studied biology and wildlife management in college and graduate school, and became experts in their field.
Today, many of the Smokies' wildlife managers have dedicated their lives to keeping the Smokies' animals healthy and wild. While there are only three permanent, year-round wildlife managers, an additional 4-5 people plus 6 interns come on board during the busiest months: January-August. Managers work long hours, often in the backcountry, searching for invasive hogs, monitoring elk and bear populations, fixing broken cable systems for hanging backpackers' food, mapping habitat for endangered species, and much more.
Did You Know?
An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park was begun in 2001. Elk once roamed the Smokies, but were eliminated from the region in the mid 1800s by over-hunting and loss of habitat. Other animals successfully reintroduced to the park include river otters and barn owls. More...