"It's not a chance we can take with children in the area."
An ameteur video showing a photographer being headbutted repeatedly by an elk went viral last week, causing concern for park officials.
Dana Soehn, a spokeswoman at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, told NBC News that the YouTubed incident was the final straw after several attempts to scare off the one-and-a-half year old animal.
"The decision to euthanize was not made lightly," Soehn said, adding that not putting the animal down would be an "an unacceptable risk."
Since September, park officials have been "hazing" the too-friendly elk: shooting the animal with paint balls and bean bags, lighting firecrackers, and running after it. The elk remained unimpressed and continued to return to the same area, drawn to the passersby.
Vince M. Camiolo, the photographer who caught the incident on video, told NBC News that he was "really shaken" when he learned of the elk's demise.
"It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that it was devastating," he said. "I felt very responsible. I still do."
However, York, the victim of the elk's jabbing, said he's sorry for the elk's death, but does not feel responsible.
"I'm getting tired of being blamed," he said in response to the numerous comments on the YouTube video. "It was a no-win situation for the park. If they hadn't put him down the park would be liable. I think the elk was a problem waiting to happen."
This is the first time park officials have had to euthanize an elk. However, Soehn warns that the more people begin feeding the wildlife, the more comfortable they become. What seems like playful behavior can lead to aggressiveness in the park animals.
image via: Wikipedia