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Public Outcry Over Euthanized Elk

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A young bull elk was euthanized at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, after getting too close to a photographer, in an incident that occurred on October 20th. Asheville, North Carolina lensman James York was taking pictures on the side of a road in Cataloochee, when the elk approached him and began head butting. Another park patron, photographer Vince M. Camiolo, videotaped the whole thing. Below is a clip of the encounter, in its entirety:

After park officials weighed in on York’s experience with the young elk, they decided to euthanize the animal, which prompted a significant public outcry. York himself was saddened that the animal was put down, and attached a statement to the viral YouTube clip of his experience:

“I love and respect animals and that’s why I photograph them and don’t hunt them. I am deeply hurt by the loss of such a beautiful creature that in its own way bonded with me. I looked forward to watching him grow to a mature bull as the years passed – I’m truly heartbroken to know he is gone.”

GSM Park Rangers assured York that he’d done nothing wrong when the elk approached him, and added that the bull in question had exhibited a previous pattern if aggressive behavior. At times, after an animal has lost fear of humans, park officials are forced to put them down, after relocation isn’t a safe option. The elk in the video was the first ever of that species to be euthanized in the park.

York, who suffered minor abrasions during his encounter, told NBC that “all the joy is gone,” and wishes the recording had never went viral. “I’m getting tired of being blamed,” York added, referring to comments attached to the video.

Dana Soehn, a spokeswoman at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said in a statement, “The decision (to euthanize) was not made lightly,” and that allowing the animal to live posed “an unacceptable risk – (It’s) not a chance we can take with children in the area.”

The one-and-a-half-year-old elk had already been “hazed” a total of 28 times since September, according to Soehn. Hazing includes chasing an animal, attempting to scare it with firecrackers, and shooting it with paint balls and bean bags. The elk remained undeterred, up to its facing off with York.

Those concerned took to Twitter:

Image via YouTube.

Public Outcry Over Euthanized Elk
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  • RichardA

    How convenient that there was another person there with a video camera to capture it all. And that the photographer was dumb enough to just sit there by the side of the road when any normal person would have gotten up and moved. If his hat had pheromones sprayed on it, no wonder the Elk would have responded the way he did. I believe the photographer just wanted to go viral with the video all along to make a name for himself. He should be arrested and cited for inciting the Elk in the first place.
    The park officials should be fired for killing this innocent creature.

  • Cathy

    Disgraceful, just disgraceful.

  • Rachel

    There are always other options!! The elk could have lived on a farm and become friendlier, became someone’s pet. Absolutely no reason to put him down, he was still a baby! GSM Park Rangers are in the wrong…and York didn’t do anything wrong! He wasn’t looking to get publicity, he is a photographer and loves the animals too. I would have enjoyed his photos of the elk as he was growing up. If the elk wanted to seriously hurt him, it would have! Shame on you GSM Park Rangers for not considering all options!

    • http://dontno michael

      i agree 100% thats bad i hunt not large game. and you are so correct GSM rangers have head where the sun doe`s not shine. Poor Elk

  • Carla A

    To the photographer: You did without a doubt contribute to the death of this wild animal. You selfishly ‘wanted’ an encounter to photograph (or have video of) this creature. You sat on the ground purposely to encourage his approach and remove any fear he may have had. Now he is dead. If he had not been a youngster you may be dead at this time as well because he was curious about this live creature sitting on the ground. He was young enough to be playfu such as the little jumps he displayed in much the same way as a dog would excitedly move to play. He may not have been quite old enough to have the concept of fear when food had been previously offered as encouragement for a close encounter. Also, it does seems strange that he was so willing to sniff and bump your hat as though you or the person making the video may have sprayed it with a pheromone (scent) to attract him. Shame on you. The only good which could come of this would be if some other stupid people saw it and learned not to be quite so stupid. The sad thing is too many people won’t learn from this.

  • pissedOff

    What idiot decided to kill that Elk!! They should be ashamed. Why are such idiots put in charge!! There were so many other options but I guess the idiots in charge didn’t have the mental capacity to figure that out. I really hope the people that did this don’t have the nerve to think that they have any intelligence at all. Mankind is supposed to be better then this, but again the only option that enters their brain is to just kill the poor animal. Hopefully, some day when these people are at their physical worst, another idiot in charge will do the same to them.

  • Krysta

    This made me physically ill. The animal did nothing wrong. That photog, effing idiot, is a disgrace to the profession of wildlife photographers. He needs to learn a thing or two from people like Simon King Johnathon Scott. At any time he could have gotten up and moved away to a waiting vehicle just as he ended up doing. It looked to me as though the young Elk was playing anyway. We need to be more considerate towards the other living creatures we share this planet with. If people are going to stupidly put themselves in these type of situations then they are the ones who should be punished.