Elk Goes Viral, Gets Euthanized

Men behind video 'deeply saddened'

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff | Suggested by Ghille

Posted Nov 19, 2013 8:14 AM CST | Updated Nov 23, 2013 11:32 AM CST

(Newser) – An elk in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park made a name for himself via a YouTube clip that has garnered nearly 2 million views—and also played a role in his downfall. In the clip, the young bull elk butts heads with a photographer for quite a while, without hurting the man. But park officials euthanized the animal on Friday, fearing it could injure someone else, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports. And though they say the issues with the elk pre-dated the video—the animal had grown accustomed to eating "people food"—officials admit the Oct. 20 clip was a "critical step in the decision-making." That's because it marked the first proof they had of the elk actually making physical contact with a visitor.

Officials say they first tried to "haze" the creature 28 times since September, reports NBC News, attempting to scare it with firecrackers and pelt it using bean bag guns to change its opinion of humans. They also tried moving it elsewhere in the park. Apparently, neither technique deterred it, and the decision was made to put it down, a first for the park. The photographer and the man who posted the video say they're upset with the move. "It has certainly pulled a black cloud over this whirlwind 'viral video' experience," writes Vince Camiolo, who took the video, in the description on YouTube. Adds photographer and head-buttee James York: "I am deeply hurt by the loss of such a beautiful creature that in its own way bonded with me. I looked forward to watching him grow to a mature bull as the years passed." But York tells NBC News he's "tired of being blamed" for the animal's death, noting that the animal approached him—in a spot he had been sitting in for an hour.

A screenshot from video of the elk face-off.   (YouTube)
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The elk butts heads with photographer James York.   (YouTube)

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