PRESS RELEASE (U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Forest Service)
Three North Carolina men have paid fines to the United States District Court for the illegal possession of Elk antlers in the Pisgah National Forest, announced today Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
U.S. Attorney Tompkins is joined in making today’s announcement by Kristen Bail, Forest Supervisor for the National Forests of North Carolina and Darwin Huggins, Assistant Special Agent in Charge United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region.
The three defendants were each charged with knowingly acquiring Elk antlers at Dicks Branch in the Pisgah National Forest. They each paid a fine and a processing fee:
• Jerry Meeks, 28, of Canton paid a $500 fine plus a $25 processing fee.
• Robert Davis, 40, of Waynesville paid a $500 fine plus a $25 processing fee.
• Aaron Smathers, 39, of Canton paid a $500 fine plus a $25 processing fee.
“The possession of parts from a specially regulated species such as Elk is a violation of the Lacey Act as well as North Carolina State Wildlife Law,” said U.S. Attorney Tompkins. “Elk once roamed the southern Appalachian Mountains and the eastern United States before over-harvesting extirpated them from the area in the late 1700′s. The experimental release of elk into the Great Smoky Mountains, which began in 2001 with a population of 25 elk, has been successful. To this point, the population has been growing and the park has been monitoring the herd with the assistance of radio collars.”
“This is a step forward in protecting the elk populations on federal lands and ensuring they remain on our national forests and parks for future generations to enjoy,” said ASAC Huggins. “This case serves as an excellent example of multiple agencies, state and federal, working cooperatively and I commend the hard work and dedication of all involved in this investigation.”
The investigation was conducted by the United States Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reminds the public that the elk are a species of special concern warranting Federal and State protection on all lands to include the National Forests, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In a separate incident this May, three elk were shot and found lying in the Mt. Sterling area near the park. A $5,000 reward is being offered by the North Carolina State Resources Federation for information leading to the arrest and conviction of person(s) responsible for the elks’ deaths.
To report illegal harvesting activities of Elk within the Smokies, please call the Law Enforcement Desk of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 1-865-436-1230, The North Carolina State Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-662-7137, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1-828-258-2084 or the National Forests at 1-828-231-0288.