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In the fashion of Brigadoon, he falls in love with Southern Appalachia at first sight, and it keeps calling him back. With ensuing visits, he finds humor, inspiration, adventure, danger, and even romance. James Alan Hofer is a freelance writer originally from Akron, Ohio. Hofer began his professional writing career in news and sports. For more than twelve years, he served as a correspondent including a term as a regional editor for Soccer America. Hofer loves traveling the back roads of Ohios Amish Country and has been a frequent visitor to Southern Appalachia and the Great Smoky Mountains since Lucy Teague Mullinax is an accomplished and self-described architectural heritage artist residing in Asheville, North Carolina.
Pigs Were Farmers' Best Friends - Great Smoky Mountains National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Her work expresses her passion for the mountains and rivers of Southern Appalachia and reflects her proud Scots-Irish ancestry. Prints are available at www. Swine in the Smokies. Rating Required Select Rating 1 star worst 2 stars 3 stars average 4 stars 5 stars best.
Deer, like bears, become food conditioned trained and seek out humans to beg for treats. Not only does this make them more likely to stand in roads and risk being hit, the food itself is very unhealthy for deer. Another threat to deer comes during their fawning season —late May through mid-July—when young animals are immobile. While native predators such as bear and coyote search the grasslands and do eat some fawns, wildlife managers are most concerned about threats from people. Within the Park, managers work with maintenance staff and vegetation managers to restrict mowing, tractor use, and other disturbances in the tall grasses.
When a female deer feeds, she often leaves her fawn alone in a grass bed to nap in the warm sun.
Some visitors find a fawn alone and, without observing it very long, assume that this deer is an orphan, pick it up, and bring it to rangers. Moving fawns—even ones that seem abandoned—can be fatal to the fawn, and disturbing wildlife is illegal. What should you do instead of moving a fawn? If the fawn is simply alone, leave it alone. If the fawn appears sick or injured, either remember the location or leave a member of your party at a good distance from the site, and contact a ranger. They have the equipment and veterinary support to help sick or injured animals.
The last wild elk in North Carolina died in the lates, and in Tennessee in the mids. Wildlife managers knew that elk play an important role in grazing grasslands and in the food chain, so reintroduced 25 animals in and 27 more in into Cataloochee, the far southeastern portion of the Park in North Carolina. Calves were dying at an alarming rate. Wildlife managers discovered that black bears—a normal predator of elk calves, but not one which usually devastates a population—were killing calves.
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To help the elk population grow, wildlife managers tried an experimental bear-relocation program. For 3 years, managers captured black bears and dropped them off at a site in the Park about 40 miles from Cataloochee. Their goal was not to eliminate bears from the Cataloochee area, because keeping both predators and prey in a habitat is important, but rather to give the elk calves a chance to grow big enough to defend themselves.
Managers knew from their work with nuisance bears that most of the relocated bears would make their way back to Cataloochee, although by the time they did, the calves would be big enough to avoid the bears. Moving bears worked , managers concluded, after three years of successfully reared elk calves. Enough elk calves survived that the population appears secure. Managers also noticed something surprising: the adult cows seemed to be learning how to be better mothers in the presence of bears. They gave birth to calves in more protected areas, and when bears did threaten them, they had learned to fight back.
Moving bears was no longer necessary. Today the elk population has grown to an estimated 90 animals. In addition to thriving at Cataloochee, the elk roam as far as Oconoluftee in the south-central area of the Park. Wildlife managers in Cataloochee, including Joe Yarkovich, constantly monitor the elk.
Most elk wear a radio collar so managers can locate them for routine checkups and to monitor their daily movement patterns. In the early summer the elk give birth to calves, and in the fall their unearthly bugles echo through the quiet forests. Interns often help wildlife managers study the elk herd. In fact, the Park has the largest colony of winter hibernating Indiana Bats Myotis sodalis in Tennessee.
Specifically, bats look for trees with dead and dying trees with loose bark and lots of solar exposure. An additional grant from the Joint Fire Science Program extends this research for 3 years. The studies are especially concerned about protecting critical summer roost habitat because bat populations are slow to recover from disturbances. While adult bats rely on some disturbances, such as fires during plant growing seasons, uncontrolled burns can kill baby bats.
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Understanding habitat needs of bats at all life stages is critical for developing effective forest management practices such as prescribed fire. All of these studies come at a time when bat populations are being devastated by White-nose syndrome, so understanding habitat use to protect it is a priority.
Wildlife managers are also responsible for the endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus and the Red-cockaded Woodpecker Picoides borealis , as well as their habitat. The Smokies are also home to many Species of Concern. Check the complete list of threatened and endangered species then use the back arrow to return to this page. Hogs are the most worrisome of these non-native species. Hogs root out native plants and destroy streambanks and with them, habitat for salamanders, trout, and other sensitive wildlife. They can also carry disease, including swine brucellosis, pseudorabies, and hog cholera classic swine fever.
To wild canines, including our coyotes and foxes, the disease is fatal, so wildlife managers want to ensure that they eliminate as many hogs as possible. In addition to carrying disease, hogs are like huge plows: they root under the soil looking for food, and destroy large areas of forest and field habitat. Hogs are not native.
The hogs you might come across in the Smokies today are from two main sources. The first source has resulted in a shaggy black hog that looks like a traditional European wild boar. In the early s, a local rancher brought about two dozen pure European wild boars to North Carolina to stock his hunting ranch.
The boars were wily and about 60 to escaped. Over time they interbred with feral hogs, domestic stock of local farmers that also roamed freely in the mountains. In the past century they have spread throughout the mountainous forests of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. Hogs that look very different from these black boars also appear. These hogs often have spots and sometimes even have curly tails.
People presumably brought these hogs from other states and deliberately released them in the Park so they could hunt them. What do we do with non-native wildlife? In a typical year, wildlife managers actively trap and shoot wild hogs to stop habitat destruction and disease spread.
Most of the work is done from December through June. In a typical winter, wild hogs move to the lower elevation areas where wildlife managers can more easily access them. In the spring and throughout the summer, hogs move to the higher elevation forest in the backcountry, making hog control much more difficult.
In a typical year managers remove about hogs from the Park—slightly more than half of those on the North Carolina side. These studies include taking blood samples from captured hogs and keeping track of capture locations.