The NCWRC approved elk hunting in Western North Carolina. The measure was passed by unanimous vote last night during a Wildlife Commission meeting in Raleigh. This makes North Carolina the third state to have a legal elk hunting season, joining Kentucky and Tennessee.

The elk season would likely run from Oct. 1 through Nov. 1, and will take place on lands bordering the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but according to NCWRC spokeswoman Margaret Martin, no season is expected to take place in 2016.

With a hunting season for the one-extinct animal now a sure thing, it is now up to NCWRC biologists and others to determine how many elk the herd can sustain losing each year. The total number of elk is presumed to be between 150 and 200. 

Tennessee, by comparison, has an estimated 400 elk. In 2015, the Volunteer State allowed six bulls to be harvested. Using those numbers, it’s likely that North Carolina will allow between two and three bulls to be harvested.

Potential elk hunters will need to apply for an elk permit through a lottery system.

20-years ago, North Carolina had no elk, an animal that had once thrived in the mountainous region of the state. In 2001 and 2002, a total of 52 elk were reintroduced to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and since then, elk have branched out into Haywood County, where three elk were recently killed after damaging property. Similar damages to crops and land have accounted for a number of complaints from landowners, many of whom support the elk hunting season.

The Commission turned down the proposed alligator hunting season along the coast. Instead, the staff will explore a possible limited hunting of nuisance gators. Contributing to the proposal’s failure was an N.C. State University study which concluded that the current population of alligators would not be sustainable with any harvest. It also noted that at the state’s northern-most section of alligators, it takes females twice as long to mature and reproduce as it takes alligators in Louisiana.

Another new regulation passed last night concerns blue catfish in lakes Tillery, Mountain Island, and Wylie. The new law will limit anglers to one blue catfish per day that is bigger than 32-inches in length. This will go into effect on Aug. 1.