The wandering elk has returned.
Rocky, as some have taken to calling him because he was first seen near Rocky Bottom in Pickens County and is a Rocky Mountain elk, was tranquilized last Thursday after wandering into the White Horse Road area of Greenville, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. He was transported to the upper reaches of the mountains in Oconee County and released.
But he was spotted near the town of Salem on Tuesday, said Richard Morton, DNR Region 1 wildlife coordinator.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t keep coming south toward Seneca,” he said.
The young male is believed to have meandered into Pickens County in search of a female in late October after being pushed out of an elk herd in the Smoky Mountains by a dominant buck. Elks vanished from the southern Appalachians in the 1700's, and this is the first one confirmed to have come to South Carolina since then, according to DNR.
After being seen in numerous locations around Pickens County, some of them in cities of Liberty and Easley, DNR caught up with him on White Horse Road and rescued him from a potentially perilous encounter with Greenville County traffic, Morton said.
“It was right by highways and houses, right in the middle of town,” he said.
The elk seen near Salem was recognized as the same one that had been released near the North Carolina line because it had no antlers, Morton said. DNR officials had cut them off when he was tranquilized.
The message DNR wants to emphasize is for people to stay away from the animal so he’ll decide to head back into his natural habitat.
“The main thing is that the people leave it alone, stop feeding it, stop petting it,” he said. “The best thing they can do is leave it alone.”
“People just don’t seem to get it.”
DNR is not actively looking for the elk and isn’t sure what to do with him if he is cornered again.
“He’s down here lonely, don’t know what to do. So he’s just kind of hanging out,” Morton said. “The more people keep feeding him and touching him, the more he’s going to keep coming up near houses and things.”
Adopting the elk is not an option, he said. That’s against the law.