Elk euthanized after close-up encounter with photographer - WSMV News 4

Elk euthanized after close-up encounter with photographer

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Our NBC News partners WBIR in Knoxville are reporting

An elk who went viral after a close-up encounter with a photographer was euthanized Friday, Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials confirmed Friday evening.

Park officials said the elk could not be re-trained to be fearful of humans. They said the elk had been coming back to that area in search of food, and had begun associating humans with food.

Spokesperson Molly Schroer said placing the animal elsewhere would be passing along a potentially dangerous problem.

We caught up with the photographer, James York, after he learned about the elk's fate. He said he was deeply saddened by the turn of events.

"I'm sickened. I can't tell you how bad I feel. I was hoping to see him again and watch him grow up and become a mature bull elk and I'm just so at a loss for words," said York.

Park officials say York did not do anything wrong in the video. They say the elk approached him and he did not interact with the elk. Rangers say the elk's friendly behavior began long before he met the elk.

York said he did not understand why crews had to put the elk down and wondered why they couldn't find other options.

"Was there no one that could take him? Was there no zoo? Was there no preserve willing to adopt this animal before they just decided to kill him?" he questioned.

York said he now wishes his famous pictures never happened.

"All the joy is gone. No one got hurt so it was a fun ride. I know the attention contributed to the animal being put down and I wish it had never happened," he said.

Rangers said it was the first time an elk has ever been put down by the park.

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