Adult elk weigh between 500 and 700 pounds and have been known to charge.

By Meghan Overdeep
October 07, 2019
Elk Blue Ridge Parkway
Credit: Facebook/Harold Blackwood/Blue Ridge Parkway

Though they were absent from the Appalachian Mountains for two centuries, wild elk are back and reportedly posing a risk to motorists on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

"Adult elk seen along the Parkway and in Great Smoky Mountains National Park can weigh between 500 and 700 pounds and have been known to charge in order to defend themselves," Blue Ridge Parkway officials wrote on Facebook last week. That's a lot larger than a black bear. We're currently in the midst of elk mating season, which means these giant herbivores are particularly on-edge.

The warning includes a photo of a bull elk crossing Heintooga Spur Road, just off the Parkway in Cherokee, North Carolina.

According to the National Park Service, elk were decimated in North Carolina "by over-hunting and loss of habitat" in the late 1700s. In Tennessee, the last elk was killed in the mid-1800s.

Fifty-two elk were reintroduced to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001 and 2002. They've since made an impressive comeback in the mountains of western North Carolina, spilling into the southernmost portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway and some neighboring communities.

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"If you see an elk on the Parkway please keep your distance in order to maintain their safety and your own," Parkway officials advise.

Oh don't worry, we will be giving these beauties a very wide berth!