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Elk from Headbutting Incident Put Down by National Park, Photographer Appalled

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A couple of days ago we shared a video/story that has since gone viral across the Internet. The video showed photographer James York getting into a bit of a headbutting match with a young bull elk who took an interest in his gear before getting aggressive.

Today we’ve found out that the elk in question has since been put down by Rangers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, leaving much of the internet and York himself saddened and speechless.

The altercation happened in the Cataloochee Valley of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and although it could have gotten very ugly very quickly, everything went okay and elk and human eventually parted ways without anybody getting hurt.

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At least that’s what everybody thought until the park confirmed to NBC that the elk was put down by Rangers after the incident because he “could not be re-trained to be fearful of humans.”

According park spokeswoman Molly Schroer, the elk had been coming back to that area in search of food as a result of previous humans feeding him, and had begun associating humans with food.

Here’s another look at the viral video:

When York found out what happened, he issued a statement that was added to the description in the video above:

I love and respect animals and that’s why I photograph them and don’t hunt them. I am deeply hurt by the loss of such a beautiful creature that in its own way bonded with me. I looked forward to watching him grow to a mature bull as the years passed.

I’m truly heartbroken to know he is gone.

Park Rangers assured York that he did nothing wrong in the video. The elk had been exhibiting aggressive behavior for a long time, and this was apparently their only course of action. This isn’t something the park resorts to often and, in fact, this elk is the first the park has ever put down.

York, however, tells NBC that “all the joy is gone.” Now that the animal has been put down, he says he wishes the photos/video and the viral attention they garnered had never happened.

(via WBIR NBC)