Elk NetworkNorth Carolina Volunteers Help Produce a Slew of Conservation Activity

Volunteer News | May 22, 2023

Where wild elk are, that’s where you’ll find volunteers with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation—and North Carolina is one of those places.

In 2001, RMEF volunteers played an important role in restoring elk to their historic range in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding region by raising vital funding to successfully release 25 elk from Kentucky and 27 more from Alberta, Canada, the following year.

Twenty years later, in 2022, their fundraising efforts helped spawn a series of projects that will benefit that elk herd and RMEF’s mission far into the future.

Habitat Stewardship

  • William H. Silver managed forage opening—expanded and enhanced openings to promote sprouts, grasses, forbs and additional browse for elk and other wildlife
  • Buck Knob forage opening–created new wildlife openings including debris shelter for wildlife

Wildlife Management

  • Maggie Valley Highway 19 elk road crossing signs—volunteers spearheaded efforts to erect three 36-by-36-inch elk crossing signs on a stretch of roadway dangerous for elk and drivers alike
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park elk monitoring and management–to monitor movement corridors and habitat use
  • Elk movement and calf survival on the Cherokee Qualla boundary—using GPS collars and trap cameras to determine potential of highway corridor passages
  • Elk modeling and continued monitoring—funding supports the purchase of GPS collars to estimate the abundance of elk

Hunting Heritage

  • Hands of a Sportsman Anthony Barnes disabled hunt—funding allowed mentors to help disabled hunters, including five first-time hunters, harvest 19 deer
  • Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby—a family-friendly fishing outing for children ages 3-11

Dating back to 1995, RMEF and its partners completed 135 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in North Carolina with a combined value of more than $5.3 million. These projects conserved or enhanced 4,920 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 1,925 acres.

“The Tar Heel State may be home to just three RMEF chapters and 3,000 members but I tell you what,” said Chris Croy, RMEF regional director, “our volunteers are doing yeoman’s work to ensure the future of its elk, other wildlife species, their habitat and our hunting heritage. What they do makes a tremendous difference.”