It’s not unusual to hit some traffic on the way to popular destinations like Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), although it is unusual to have an entire elk herd be the cause of it. But that’s just what Dean Cloer captured on video when he was traveling through western North Carolina on January 3, after he realized a vehicle slow down was being caused by wild elk crossing Highway 441 near GSMNP.
Cloer’s footage shows multiple cars stopping for a group of elk walking through the streets of Saunooke Village. The sound of their hoofs clomping on the pavement can be heard as they start to run.
Additional video shows just how large this group of elk was, as many graze on a grassy patch next to the road while others saunter across it. In the video locals and travelers can be heard laughing at the wild situation.
Elk have been slowly reintroduced to multiple areas of the Southeast, including GSMNP, making elk sightings in the area more common over the years. After being wiped out by European settlers and overhunting in the late 1700s, there has been an effort to bring back the native species.
According to GSMNP, the initial elk release into the park was back in early 2001 when the National Park Service and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation released 62 total elk over a span of two years. Ever since, the elk population has continued to grow slowly and steadily, leading to additional efforts around the region to bring back this native species.
Cover Photo: Still shot of video taken by Dean Cloer