Elk population once thrived in the High Country, with the animals’ lending their name to numerous towns and landmarks, such as Banner Elk, Elk Park and Elk River Falls. Their numbers were decimated by over-hunting and loss of habitat in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they were eventually eradicated entirely from the region.

However, in 2001, the National Park Service began reintroducing elk into Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and they’ve been thriving there ever since.

At Grandfather Mountain, guests will now be able to see them up close and personal in their native environment.

The mountain opted to adopt three male elk, based on research and expert recommendation. While members of bachelor herds are known to live together peacefully, that’s not necessarily the case with mixed herds, in which bull elk can grow aggressive during mating season.

Since the elk will be residing in an environmental wildlife habitat, the mountain’s habitat keepers felt it would be best to instead welcome a bachelor herd.