“Bad beginning, good ending,” said Joyce Cooper, co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Great Smoky Mountains Chapter (GSMC).
Those words sum up events of the last two weeks in western portions of North Carolina where someone stole two elk crossing signs in the heart of the state’s elk range.
Six signs went up last year along U.S. Highway 19 crossing Soco Mountain from the Jackson-Haywood County Line and the town of Maggie Valley. It took a joint effort by GMSC volunteers, North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority to get it done.
“We did it to protect the elk and try to save their lives, as well as human lives,” Cooper told WLOS-TV. “Somebody’s got these signs, and we want them back.”
Each of the signs has eight solar-powered LED lights that flash 24/7 and cost $1,100 apiece. Shortly after the theft, a car hit and killed a cow elk.
Cooper spread the word about the theft and fellow RMEF member Scott Nielsen posted the need for funding to replace the signs on his Facebook page. The community responded by generating more than $9,000 to buy seven new signs.
“We definitely need a couple in the town of Maggie Valley where they cross frequently. I just really appreciate all the people in Haywood County that stepped up to the plate,” Cooper told WLOS-TV.
Click here to see a TV report about the incident.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)