When The Conservation Fund began acquiring the land that would eventually become the William H. Silver Game Lands near Maggie Valley, the idea was that parts of the property could be converted into elk-friendly habitat, hopefully alleviating conflicts between the large ungulates and the farmers whose crops they love to munch. 

I had the pleasure of leading a birding trip for Alarka Expeditions on Friday September 29. I had been in the field the previous two weeks and migration seemed to be going strong, so I was expecting a pretty birdy outing. And things started well. We ran into a number of palm warblers almost immediately at our first stop – Kituwah. We also encountered song sparrows, field sparrows, eastern towhee, goldfinches, eastern phoebe and a few of us got brief looks at a magnolia warbler.

A technician with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission was out for a routine check of an elk fence installed at the Ralph Ross and Sons Dairy Farm on Jan. 31 when he spotted two young bull elk dead on the property.

The elk viewing experience in the Cataloochee Valley area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will get a boost thanks to a $3,500 grant that Friends of the Smokies received from the Haywood County Tourism and Development Authority.

These days, bovines — not elk — are the only cows wandering around the Ross dairy farm in Jonathan Creek.

Elk may be the most polarizing animal in Western North Carolina right now, but William Carter has kept a closer eye on the issue than most. Carter makes his living off a small mountain farm in the Jonathan Creek area, sharing a property line with the Ross dairy farm — that family’s elk-related struggles have earned them plenty of unwanted time in the local spotlight. 

SEE ALSO: Two-mile fence keeps elk off dairy farm following winter shooting of seven animals

As the elk population has grown, Carter’s found himself wondering what the future holds for his acres of beans, pumpkins and cattle pasture.

Elk hearing draws a crowd

A minor adjustment to elk depredation rules brought 70 people — about 40 of them college students — out to Haywood Community College last week for a public hearing with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

out frRound tables and large, neon sticky notes characterized last week’s kickoff of a planning process to cut timber and create elk habitat in a remote corner of northeastern Haywood County.  

About 50 people representing groups including the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, MountainTrue, The Nature Conservancy, the Ruffed Grouse Society and Haywood County government — among a host of others — found their way to the room at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville, taking a seat on the large circle of chairs waiting for them.

haywoodAfter three elk were shot on the Ross dairy farm in Jonathan Creek for eating winter wheat, a follow-up visit from wildlife officials revealed the remains of a fourth elk as well.

elkElk hunting could be on the way to becoming legal in North Carolina following the N.C. Wildlife Resource’s Commission unanimous vote in favor of a rule change last week, though any actual season on elk is likely still a good ways in the future. 

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