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3 elk in TWRA release are shot by poachers


3 elk in TWRA release are shot by poachers

Bob Hodge, Knoxville News-Sentinel outdoors editor

December 9, 2002

Tennessee's elk herd is no longer immune to poachers.

In a span of less than four weeks three elk have been found dead, and each was apparently shot. Two of the elk, both bulls, were found within a mile of the release site at Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area. The other was a cow found in Morgan County.

In response, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is offering rewards of up to $2,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the poachers. Anyone with information can call the poaching hotline at 1-800-831-1174 between 7 a.m. and midnight seven days a week.

"We've recovered some evidence and have some leads," said Brian Ripley supervisor of TWRA's Area 41. "We don't believe the elk were shot by trophy hunters because whoever did this shot them and didn't take the horns. Maybe the shootings were accidental, or maybe they were done by people who just don't like us bringing back elk."

The first of the three elk was found Nov. 14 by researchers tracking the herd. The elk's transmitter began giving off a mortality signal, and its carcass was found about a mile from where it was released at Royal Blue.

The day before Thanksgiving the cow elk was found dead in Morgan County by a University of Tennessee student working on the re-introduction project.

The third elk, a bull that weighed nearly 800 pounds, was found dead by a hunter Monday near Hatmaker Cemetery. The cemetery is also close to the release site and is about a mile from where the other dead bull was found.

In all three cases the elk had been dead at least two days before they were found. Scavengers had already begun eating the cow in Morgan County and the smaller of the two bulls.

Ripley said wildlife officers are unsure if the shootings of the two bulls are related. He doubts there's a connection between them and the cow shot in Morgan County.

"That's a long way from where the other two elk were found, so I wouldn't think there's a link," Ripley said. "That elk was shot in Region III, so we're going to be coordinating our investigations with them."

The three elk bring to five the number that have been shot since the first elk were released at Royal Blue in December 2000. All five have been shot within the past two months.

The first, a bull, was accidentally killed during a deer hunt at the Oak Ridge Wildlife Management Area. Bill Fred Campbell of Jonesborough admitted he mistook the elk for a deer and paid $1,240 in fines and court costs and lost his hunting privileges for a year.

On Nov. 21 a Morgan County farmer shot a bull elk he said was harassing his cattle and tearing up his fences. Since the animal was outside the designated elk relocation zone and damaging private property, the farmer was within his rights to shoot it and was not charged.

Ripley said information from somebody who saw or heard something would be the TWRA's best bet on finding the poachers.

"The only thing we know to do is get out there and beat the bushes and see if somebody knows something about these elk," he said. "If they do, hopefully that person will give us a call."

Ripley also said TWRA will augment the man-hours it spends monitoring the elk herd.

"We've already maintained a strong presence near the release site, and I think that presence is going to increase," Ripley said. "Thirty years ago deer restoration in this state was successful because we protected them to the point of probably being overzealous. We're going to protect these elk the same way."

Bob Hodge may be reached at 865-342-6314 or [email protected].


Well-known member
This just makes me sick. I would love to someday go and listen to bull elk bugle in TN. but with people like this around it doesn't look like it is going to happen.


Well-known member
I no what you mean TNDEERHUNTER.

I've been fortunate to already hear elk bugles from my stand. The elk I've heard are from a private herd about half a mile from my hunting area. Other than TV, those are the only bugles I've ever heard. I must say I actually got goose bumps all over when I heard them! Just and awesome sound!

Several of my co-workers live in SW Virginia. Many of them have seen elk near their homes.

Va. hunters may legally harvest any elk, as they are still considered "deer" and can be checked out using a deer harvest tag.

Va's Fish and Game Commission doesn't want the elk in with their deer herd. Most of the elk sightings were before hunting season opened. A few of the elk were from Kentucky and some were from Royal Blue in TN.
They identified the elk by ear tags. These elk were transported back to their respective home areas.

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