Love is in the air!

It’s breeding season for Elk, and that means the herds are on the move!

National Park goers will soon be noticing that this is the best time of the year to view one of nature’s magnificent animals, if they haven’t noticed already.

Mating season, also known as the "rut," lasts through the months of September to December for the elk. This is known as one of the best time to view elk due to the fact that many of them are out and about.

One of the most exciting traits of the elk is its load cry known as the bugle. This high pitched squeal can be described as the sound an elephant makes, but instead usually ends with grunts and shaking of the antlers and head.

Elk viewing can be a once in a lifetime opportunity for some people, and many people enjoy it so much that they head to the Smokies to see them every year! With that being said, it’s important that one knows how to properly view the elk.

Like any other wild animal, elk can be unpredictable and the bulls can be especially aggressive during the rut. It is very important for your safety to stay 50 yards away when viewing or photographing the elk. In fact, it's illegal in the park to willfully approach any closer and people caught violating the federal regulation can face fines and arrest.

The National Park Service recommends elk watchers to bring binoculars or a spotting scope to see the animal by the roadside and to stay inside or close to your vehicle. Keep dogs on a leash at all times, or better yet, leave them in your car to ensure their safety. If you see an elk approach you, head back to your car quickly.

Feeding wild life, getting too close, or trying to influence it to come closer to you in anyway is also prohibited by law, and for a good reason. If you happen to disturb an animal and it becomes too aggressive resulting in injury or property damage, this can lead to the animal being euthanized.

It is important that you respect the animal’s personal space and its habitat. In situations like these, the fate of the animal can fall into your hands. Always be sure to follow the rules and regulations issued by the national park for both your safety and the animals’ safety.

According to National Park Service website, the best viewing times are usually early morning and late evening. Most of the elk are located in the Cataloochee area in the southeastern section of the park on the North Carolina side . Directions to this area can be found on their website: www.nps.gov.