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Cataloochee Valley - Great Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina

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Joe Kegley | E-Mail | Updated 08-01-09

This two minute nature video of Cataloochee Valley NC, includes black bears, Wild Turkeys, elk, and some historical structures. The footage was taken over one weekend ( Aug 1 2009).

The previous 3 years, black bears have been removed from this area prior to the elk calving season. This was done in response to the high mortality rate of the calves due to bear predation. This year the black bears were not relocated. Per park staff, the elk cows have learned how to defend their offspring from bear attack so the capture and removal is no longer necessary.

Note #1: Cataloochee still has a few apple trees that produce during mid to late July. The trees are apparently orchard remnants from the original occupants of the area. Black bears regularly visit and climb the trees during this time for the fruit. Elk also enjoy the apples that have fallen to the ground. In fact, it is not uncommon for elk to let the bears shake the trees, then run the bears off so they can have the fallen fruit to themselves. This food source is in addition to the blackberries that are ripe during this time in Cataloochee. A nice blackberry thicket can be found next to the old Caldwell homestead. I engaged black bears in the Caldwell blackberry thicket and around the remaining apple trees located in the valley. There are also some wild black cherry trees in the area that may produce fruit in mid-August. Black bears and tent caterpillars are particularly fond of wild cherry trees.

Note #2: Per a park official, coyotes like it when the fields are mowed. Apparently this makes searching for rodents easier. Possibly the large tractors also tear up burrows causing rodents to become more active in repairing or creating a new home. Per the official, coyotes can sometimes be seen in the middle of the day searching for food in a field that was just mowed. I did not personally witness this, but thought it was something important to remember.

Note #3: You may have observed the untagged young male elk in the video. A park ranger informed me they have stopped putting radio collars and tagging new males due to resources (cost). Good news for photographers, though females are still being tagged and radio collared.

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