Public Outcry Over Euthanized Elk

    November 19, 2013

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.