Great Smoky Mountains National Park Needs Help Monitoring Elk And Visitors

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seeking volunteers to assist rangers with managing traffic and providing visitor information on responsible elk viewing practices in the Cataloochee area of the park.

Cataloochee is a remote mountain valley on the park's eastern edge where remnants of early settlements are preserved. Surrounded by mountain peaks, the isolated valley is a popular, year-round destination. Elk were reintroduced in Cataloochee in 2001 as part of an experimental release to determine if an elk herd could sustain itself in the park after a 200-year absence. Approximately 140 elk now live in the self-sustaining herd.

Each volunteer is asked to work at least two scheduled, four-hour shifts per month starting the second week in May and continuing through November. This target period is during high visitor use from late spring during the elk calving season through the end of the fall color and elk mating season.

Volunteers will spend time roving the valley in a zero-emission electric vehicle or by bike. Volunteers who prefer to rove by bike are required to bring their own bicycle and protective riding gear. Bike patrol volunteers will rove along the road through the valley which is mostly flat with very little change in elevation.

If you’re interested in volunteering or would like more information about the program, please contact Park Ranger Pete Walker at (828) 506-1739.