New Elk Patrol Rides in Smoky Mountains

What is the Elk Bike Patrol?

Stefanie McIntosh is a member of the new Elk Bike Patrol, which will help answer visitors' questions about elk. Photo by Ann Clayton.

Stefanie McIntosh is a member of the new Elk Bike Patrol, which will help answer visitors’ questions about elk. Photo by Ann Clayton.

Elk Patrol? What’s the Elk Patrol?

If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry. It’s new.

A $1,000 grant from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority to Friends of the Smokies has made the new Elk Patrol possible.

So what is it?

The new Elk Patrol is a group of volunteers that will help control traffic, nimbly dealing with “elk jams,” answering visitors’ questions, and being a highly visible presence in the Cataloochee Valley.

The grant is providing volunteers with safety uniform shirts, bike shorts and pants, bike safety mirrors and repair kits, and radio gear.

Stefanie McIntosh is one of the new Elk Patrol volunteers. “Being on a bike allows us to respond quickly during high traffic times and during visitor emergencies. Kudos to GSMNP South District Ranger Joe Pond for this idea,” she said.

The grant will also provide uniforms for the Elk Bugle Corps, whose members rove the valley on foot.

“Supporting the Elk Bugle Corps and its new Elk Bike Patrol, made possible by this TDA grant, creates a happy visitor experience and increases tourism for Haywood County,” said Holly Demuth, director of North Carolina resource development of Friends of the Smokies.

Elk Background

Elk used to be native to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park area, but in the mid-1800s, they were eliminated, due to over-hunting and loss of habitat.

An experimental program started in the Smokies in 2001, with 25 elk being reintroduced . In 2002, the park imported 27 more animals. You can check out progress reports on the elk population of the Great Smokies here. Just scroll down to the progress reports at the bottom.

You can find more information about the Smoky Mountain elk herd here.

About Kendra