East Tennessee Elk's story prompts strong reaction

(WBIR) One animal's story has prompted a strong reaction both in East Tennesse-- and around the country.

A friendly elk -- who got a little too comfortable around humans. And in the same week he charmed the world in a viral video, park rangers had to euthanize him for behavior they say they couldn't fix.

Cataloochee is one of the more popular sections of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's where a lot of people come to watch elk. In fact, this is where the viral video showing an elk engaging with a photographer was shot--causing more people to come to this area."

Jane and Leroy Coleman are elk-watching for the first time.

But unlike this couple who are only feet away from one of the elks.

The Colemans click their cameras from the side of the road. It's pretty much the same area the photographer seen in the viral video was standing before an elk decided to approach him.

Park officials said this isn't the first time the elk became friendly with visitors. According to rangers, the animals had become used to getting food from humans--and therefore had to be put down because it was no longer fearful of humans--and the park would not be able to re-train it.

It's a decision that's split The Colemans.

"I hate to see that, but he could have hurt that photographer and he might have hurt somebody else if he's lost his fear of humans," Jane Coleman said.

Although the couple won't get to see this famous now elk, they say they plan to see many just like it--but hopefully not too close up.

Park rangers say photgrapher James York did not do anything wrong in the video. They're reminding visitors to use caution when viewing wildlife. Not only elk, but also bears and deer.


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