“Mr. Elk” Hangs up his Hat
By Joyce Cooper, North Carolina State Chair
The gentleman affectionately and respectfully known as “Mr. Elk” in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee officially retired at the end of December 2010. Kim DeLozier, longtime RMEF member and wildlife biologist for Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), first headed up the five-year elk restoration feasibility study, and then supervised the relocation of elk from Kentucky and Canada to the Cataloochee Valley. He worked tirelessly for the next 10 years seeing to their health and safety in the valley and surrounding areas.
More than 200 co-workers, immediate family and representatives from a variety of organizations, including RMEF members and volunteers, met to celebrate DeLozier’s 32 years of working with hogs, deer, peregrine falcons, river otters, red wolves, black bears and especially elk. All in attendance agreed that reintroducing elk into GSMNP would not have occurred, nor been as successful as it has been, without his vision and hard work.
DeLozier told the crowd that the elk restoration program was the highlight of his career, adding that the absolute best day of his career was in 2001 when he saw a herd of elk grazing in the Cataloochee Valley for the first time after a 150-year absence.
Joe Treadway, former RMEF board chairman, presented DeLozier with a set of Leica binoculars from the RMEF’s Great Smoky Mountains Chapter in appreciation of the many hours he spent working with the elk and helping educate the public about the species. Individual RMEF volunteers also presented him with gifts and tributes.
In addition, Boyce Deitz, field representative for North Carolina congressman Heath Shuler, presented DeLozier with a Congressional Record Document which was read in the House of Representatives by Rep. Shuler on December 15, 2010. He also received a hand-carved walnut bear, a hand-crafted bow and arrows and a letter of commendation from the chief and vice-chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
“We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Kim for his dedication to this historic project. Certainly, without Kim's commitment, this project would not have been the huge success it is,” says Treadway. “He’s like a pit bull. When he grabbed hold of this project, he wouldn’t turn it loose. Thanks to Kim, generations to follow will continue to experience wild elk and wild places.”