DENVER — The young elk seen in a YouTube video butting heads with a photographer in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park was euthanized on Friday, park officials said.
The video of the elk butting James York garnered almost 1 million views and more than 1,000 comments, Citizen-Times.com reported. The video was only one factor in the decision to put the animal down, spokeswoman Dana Soehn said.
“This was not a one-time incident,” she said. “(The video) was a trigger; the physical contact escalated our decision.”
“Unfortunately, this 800-pound elk charged several visitors,” the park said in a statement. “Now that the rut is essentially over, the elk’s aggressive behavior should lessen and by removing the elk’s antlers which are annually shed, biologists further reduced the risk for harm to visitors.”
Park workers said they repeatedly darted and hazed the elk in an effort to convince it to leave people alone, but it refused.
The video, shot Oct. 20 along the Cataloochee Trail, shows the male elk head-butting York, who was sitting along the trail shooting still photographs. Neither York nor the elk were hurt.
York told the Citizen-Times he was “truly saddened” by the decision to put down the animal.
“I was really looking forward to watching him grow up,” he said. “I felt like I bonded with him. I am crushed that he’s gone. I was looking forward to his rack getting bigger and maturing into a bull.”