The Annual Elk Rut Brings Autumn Excitement to Asheville, NC
Autumn is a busy season in the mountains surrounding Asheville, not just for people taken by the stunning colors, but also for wildlife. The annual elk rut draws crowds to the remote Cataloochee Valley to catch a glimpse of the herd's wild behavior. It's a memorable excursion that'll invigorate your Blue Ridge vacation.
What's so exciting about an elk rut?
The rut is the autumn mating season for elk, which includes several distinctive behavioral displays, including bugling and antler wrestling between the males. Mature bulls compete for the attentions of the female elk and attempt to build harems for the winter by challenging their opponents to sparring matches. The bulls also make a loud bellowing sound, known as bugling, which can be heard for miles. He who wins the antler wrestling and bugles the loudest is considered a desirable mate and attracts the most females. Dawn and dusk are the best times of the day to observe the elk in action.
There's elk herds in North Carolina?
In 2001, 25 elk were brought to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in an attempt to repopulate the region with a once native animal. The last natural herds to roam the Appalachian Mountains were killed off by hunters over 200 years ago. The past decade has seen great success from the repopulation experiment. A current count of approximately 140 elk live in the Cataloochee Valley section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is located about an hour west of Asheville. Directions to reach Cataloochee Valley can be found on the National Park Service website. Elk can also be spotted near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, NC.
Caution! Give the elk a little privacy please...
There are a few rules to keep in mind when observing the elk rut. Directly approaching the animals or taking any antlers you may find in the park are both illegal by federal regulation. While observing elk, be sure to stay back at least 50 yards. The park service recommends that you keep to the roadside, and do not hike into a field where elk are present. Autumn is a precious time for the elk to breed. Calves are born in late spring and stay by their mother's side for nearly a year. In 2012, fourteen calves were born in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thirteen of whom are still alive and well.
Carolina Mornings cabins get you close to the action
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