Head-butting elk featured in viral video put to death

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The young elk featured in a viral video playfully head-butting an Asheville photographer has been put to death.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported the elk was euthanized Friday after the Oct. 20 YouTube video, which was viewed more than one million times and featured on national news shows.

The video shows the elk head-butting James York, who was sitting along a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park taking photographs. York was not injured.

Smokies spokeswoman Dana Soehn said the decision to put the elk to death was a first for the park. Park officials said the elk was a problem before approaching the photographer.

Soehn said the elk had lost its fear of humans after being fed by visitors. She said the animal had demonstrated dangerous behavior that could result in human injury or death.

York, the photographer in the viral video, said he is “truly saddened” that the elk was put to death.

“I was really looking forward to watching him grow up,” he said. “I felt like I bonded with him. I am crushed that he’s gone. I was looking forward to his rack getting bigger and maturing into a bull.”

Read more: The Asheville Citizen-Times


    • FFDADOF1

      People also need to understand that this time of year is mating season for deer, elk & others in that family of animals. Testosterone levels are elevated & they are more aggressive & people need to understand this. The park should also put up signs when entering making visitors aware & to remain in their vehicles. They can get just as good of a picture from inside their vehicle & it would further minimize situations like this where an animal has to be out down because of someone else’s stupidity.

    • Liinda Neese

      seemed to me he was just trying to communicate or play the way they do.I wish people were more friendly that way if he was going to hurt anyone he would have already.

  • The One

    Herb-Crusted Rack of Elk with goat cream cheese MMMMM 1 rack of elk
    1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    2 cups fresh herbs
    (eg. combine basil, chives, parsley, tarragon or mint)
    12 asparagus tips
    2 cups assorted wild mushrooms
    (eg. morels, chanterelles, shiitake)
    1 carrot, cut in sticks
    1 small fennel bulb, sliced
    1 shallot, finely diced
    1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
    1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    1/2 cup quality elk stock
    3/4 cup olive oil
    1/2 cup goat cheese
    1/2 cup whipping cream
    Salt and pepper to taste

  • Otto

    Why couldn’t an animal was apparently that tame simply be put in a zoo? Seems to me they were a little too quick to put it down. IMO

  • FaithC

    There was no reason to do this. How did they know it would cause any trouble. People encroach on their habitat and then they kill them for not fearing humans. Shame on the ones who made that call.

  • Gary Slate

    Some people in authority don’t use common sense. May their kids receive no gifts for Christmas this year. Sure Rudolph could have been
    dangerous but if you watched the video Rudolph was very careful how he placed his antlers on either side of the man head. He did not stab him or hit him hard. He just wanted to play also one honk on the horn and he backs up. They could have put him in a zoo or put rubber bumpers on his antlers. The worst scenario would be to remove is antlers and let him run free not kill him.

  • Steven

    How dare we interact with nature! The government can’t allow that. We might get hurt. It’s us or the animals. One of us has to go! If you don’t understand it just kill it! Way to go United Idiots of America.

  • Marie Donnalley

    As sad as this is, it was the best call in the long run. This young bull was no where near full size, and could have hurt this man badly. He was VERY lucky. This time of year these animals are in the rut along with the whitetail deer most people are use to seeing. When in the rut these animals become aggressive and territorial. The fact that he had no fear of humans made him a danger to them and him self. He was not “playing” as one person posted he was showing aggression, and you can not “remove” an elks horns to help the problem…..they grow back and he will still be aggressive.

  • The One

    Park officials are having no public invitation for a cook out :) I know I would. I guess not many of you have ever tried Elk. Better than cow and better for you than fatty cow.

  • Brandi Shouse

    WHY would you put a elk down for living in his own space?! What do you people want from these animals? You feed them, let people feed them, and then expect them to have a fear of humans that show no harm?! You make no sense and are quite frankly a disgrace to our existence.

  • Bitsy

    They did not have to kill the elk. He was in his territory and was not hurting James York. Those park authorities should be charged with animal cruelty. I will never visit the Great Smokey Mt National park now. I would be afraid if I took a picture or video of an animal there the park would have it killed.

  • Brittany

    I could see how they feel he was dangerous because one slip and he could have killed that man instantly. What I don’t undertstand is why they simply just relocate him to an area that has no human contact or at least donate him to a zoo. Euthanasia should not always be the answer to get rid of a “problem”, it’s a sad world.

  • Luther Barber

    Grandfather Mountain has a small habitat. What would have been wrong with that for the elk? Then the people could continue to feed him.

  • Mikey

    On another thread some TN government wonk said the elk was killed because there would have been too much PAPERWORK involved in doing something humane and sensible, like relocation!! PAPERWORK! This beautiful creature was KILLED (not euthanized) because of bureaucracy, heaven help us!!
    You think Obamacare is bad, trying to survive the park service policy wonks and their damnable PAPERWORK!
    Beyond that the people of that park have a knee-jerk culture that relegates animals to a role of being slaughtered for trophy and bbq fodder.

  • Elaine Kelly

    Bottom LINE LEAVE THE WILD ANIMALS ALONE !!! That Elk did what is / was natural … people fed the baby elk early on… why can’t we all live and let live on this planet ? Mankind is arrogant ..

  • K Dean

    What a sad world we live in. This was so uncalled for. This elk was in his home. He could have been relocated…but no, let’s kill him…that’s what our society has become. If you are an inconvenience, then your gone. I will not visit this park again. I feel like a previous post. If I take a picture/video of an animal, it will be killed. The only way we “little” people can make a difference is don’t go to the park if this is the way they are going to treat the wildlife.

  • livingwell

    As sad as it is that this beautiful creature was put down, he was not “playing” at all. Head butting, etc. are acts of aggression… this man was very fortunate that he was not killed or maimed. While we can bemoan the fact that we are in his territory, and he should be allowed to live peacefully, the fact is that we can’t close the Great Smoky Mountains National Park down, to avoid interaction between humans and animals. If he had been allowed to live there, in the future we would probably have heard of him killing someone, and would have been condemning the lack of action from government officials who should have known better. Someone mentioned putting “rubber bumpers” on his antlers. This person called the elk “Rudolph”. Part of the problem here appears to be a lack of knowledge about these types of animals, and a tendency to anthropomorphize them. For one thing, putting “rubber bumpers” on the antlers of one elk, and expecting him to survive life with other bull elks, is cruel in itself. For another thing, this elk could kill a person with his hooves. Anyone who has owned something as simple as a large billy goat should be aware that male animals wish to show supremacy over other creatures. Believe me, they’re not playing.

  • chelle

    I agree w/ Rob – why couldn’t they just put him in a zoo? Didn’t even have to be a petting zoo – just a zoo where he could live. Euthanizing a beautiful creature like that is just wrong!!!

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