Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fishing, Kids, Fun and the RMEF

“It was slimy and had little red spots on it.” That’s what four-year-old Baylor Creswell said after he pulled his trout from the Oconaluftee River. Baylor and about 1,500 other kids descended on Cherokee, North Carolina, for the annual Talking Trees Trout Derby.

The two-day, free family event is for children age 3-11. Activities also include fly-tying exhibitions, fish-cleaning stations, wildlife and fisheries exhibits, food, music and prizes. And that’s exactly why the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation returns year after year to help out.

In fact, this past August marked the tenth year members of the RMEF Great Smoky Mountains Chapter stepped up to volunteer as a sponsor of the event. In addition to providing $2,000 in funding so each child went home with a fishing pole, 19 RMEF volunteers also blew up balloons gave out temporary elk tattoos, helped kids fish in the river and provided elk booklets for children and Bugle magazines for adults.

Elk do have a history in this part of the country. Elk historically roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains centuries ago but were eliminated due to overhunting and the loss of habitat. However, with support of both RMEF and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, elk were reintroduced into the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2001. Elk are frequently seen along the Oconaluftee River and in the Cherokee area. The current elk population in western North Carolina is believed to be about 140 animals, counting elk both inside and outside of park boundaries.
Back on the river Baylor looked to land more fish. He’s such a determined young angler that he said he’d return to catch 190 fish next year. (Psst Baylor, the limit is only five.)

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