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A grant will help wildlife officials keep track of elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Friends of the Smokies received the $13,720 grant from Charter Communications, Inc. It will go towards the purchase of 15 radio collars and 2 receivers for tracking and monitoring elk throughout the park.

Elk are a native species to East Tennessee, but they died out over the years. In 2001, elk were reintroduced to the Smokies. At first, all of the elk were fitted with radio collars so researchers could track them, but as the herd has grown to at least 120, that's become impossible. This grant will allow them to collar five adult female calves per year, along with their calves and any nuisance elk.

"Charter is a communications and technology company," said Joe Pell, vice president and general manager for Charter's operations in Louisiana and Tennessee. "Funding the radio telemetry that park biologists use to ensure the elk's success fits with our company's focus."

"We find it very satisfying to have a healthy elk herd. Our job is to help maintain that by giving them the supplies they need," says Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies.

Mark Spilman, vice president and general manager for Charter's operations in the Carolinas and Virginia adds, "The Great Smoky Mountains is the country's most visited National Park. Many of our own employees that live and work in the region have experienced seeing these majestic animals thrive in Cataloochee. And now, they are officially a "Friend of the Smokies."

TWRA monitors another elk herd in the Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area in Scott and Campbell Counties.