Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have lifted the experimental status of the park’s restored elk herd, clearing the way for permanent management of elk in and around the park. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been the largest financier of the park’s 10-year elk restoration project, with more than $800,000 in contributions. Kim Delozier, RMEF conservation program manager and former supervisory wildlife biologist of the park, said that without the efforts of RMEF, especially its volunteers, wild free-ranging elk would not be in North Carolina today. Elk were extirpated from the region more than 200 years ago and the first elk were reintroduced into the park in 2001. Today the heard is healthy at about 140 animals. To learn more, visit www.rmef.org.