Target: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Goal: Find alternatives to euthanasia for wild animals that become too comfortable around humans.
Recently, a young elk was euthanized after approaching and aggressively nudging a man to request food. This particular elk had been sedated and removed from the area frequently, but always returned because humans continued to offer sustenance. Because the elk had “lost its fear of humans,” it was deemed a liability and had to be put down. Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the incident occurred, claimed that euthanasia was the only option – but this may not be the last case of a wild animal turning tame due to human negligence. Urge Great Smoky Mountains National Park to find alternative methods of dealing with human-friendly wildlife, as people, not animals, are responsible for such tragic occurrences.
Complaints were made when word of the curious elk’s demise was made public. However, many wildlife experts agreed that such animals, who no longer fear humans, are extremely difficult to manage. It is a complicated process to relocate them to another public land or facility; those demonstrating aggressive or potentially harmful behavior cannot inhabit other public lands, and facilities that house captive animals require all in-coming residents to be free of Chronic Wasting Disease for the past five years, a qualification this elk did not meet.
Typically, elk are removed from residential areas by hazing. They are hit with bean bags, shot with paint guns, and chased away with firecrackers. Most animals respond effectively and become fearful of returning unless, like this elk, the hope of food outweighs the fear of a gun. While such aggressive methods may seem unnecessarily cruel, the alternative risk of near-domesticating a wild animal is worse, and humans are entirely at fault for it.
The problem must be addressed. This elk will not be the only animal to fall victim to the allure of free rations, and ultimately end up the victim of human negligence. Most people are aware that wild animals are not to be fed, but many do so regardless of the rules, and the animals suffer as a result. Great Smoky Mountains National Park must find alternative methods of managing such animals in the future. To kill them for seeking offered handouts is unfair.
Urge Great Smoky Mountains National Park to find such alternative methods soon, and ensure that this tragedy does not occur again.
Dear Great Smoky Mountains National Park,
An elk was recently euthanized because it received food from humans and consequently became comfortable with human interaction. As a result, the animal was deemed a liability and was put down for posing a threat to park visitors. While your park officials claim that, in this case, nothing could be done to save the elk, this may not be the last time a wild animal is lured by handouts and becomes at ease around the providers.
Such animals are not at fault for the negligence of the people who directly caused such behavior, and therefore I urge you to find alternative methods of managing such animals in the future.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: John Carrel via Flickr