Elk killings lead to NC Wildlife rule changes

On a February, 2016 morning, biologists with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission visited a Waynesville dairy farm where the landowner said he had shot three elk damaging his property — a bull, a cow and a calf.

While walking the farm’s wheat fields and ridge lines, the biologists found even more dead elk, some gruesomely decomposed, some buried, which were not reported.

Emails retrieved through an Asheville Citizen-Times public records request reveal that the biologists were furious, saying they believed the deaths were “spite killing” by the landowner, and “an in your face challenge to the existence of elk and the WRC’s authority. If (the landowner) continues to simply shoot any elk found on his property he alone can significantly impact the sustainability of this elk herd.”

An investigation by wildlife law enforcement officers found the elk were damaging property on the Ross and Sons Dairy Farm, the largest agricultural operation in Haywood County, and declined to charge the landowners.

The incident drew public criticism on two sides – from those who enjoy seeing the giant animals return to the landscape after hundreds of years, and those who believe their property and their rights are being trampled by the reintroduced species.

In response, in part, to these incidents, the Wildlife Commission will hold a public hearing to take comment on proposed changes to elk management regulations, 15A NCAC 10B .0106 (Wildlife Taken for Depredations). The hearing on the proposed amendment will be 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 at Haywood Community College.

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