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February 20, 2024

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Soco Mountain Sees New Elk Signs

New elk crossing signs have been erected on Soco Mountain for the second time in two years to caution drivers about the presence of Maggie Valley’s iconic wildlife species.

Following the theft of two elk crossing signs last summer, a community campaign successfully raised funds not only to replace the stolen signs but to install four additional ones. The original signs, in place for less than a year before being taken, were replaced in the fall of 2022 through a joint effort funded by the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation at a cost of approximately $6,500.

By summer 2023, two of the newly installed signs were reported missing. Cabbage Rose owner Scott Nielsen took the initiative to mobilize support from the local community in Maggie Valley and his Facebook group to replace the stolen signs. Within three days, the community had rallied, raising nearly $8,000 to purchase not just two but six new signs.

Nielsen expressed his gratitude, emphasizing the remarkable generosity of the community. Some individuals contributed enough to cover the entire cost of a sign ($1,300 each), while others participated by pooling their donations.

Joyce Cooper, co-chair of the Great Smoky Mountains chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, shared her surprise at the overwhelming support, describing it as a generous gesture in today’s world. Nielsen believes it reflects the deep affection residents of Maggie Valley have for their elk, a sentiment echoed by Cooper, who highlighted the elk’s positive impact on tourism in the town.

Despite occasional incidents such as damage to gardens, residents generally appreciate the elk’s presence, with people traveling considerable distances to witness them. Cooper emphasized the importance of keeping the signs in Haywood County, as all donations originated from individuals in the county. The signs were installed by the N.C. Department of Transportation in mid-December, strategically placed based on observed elk activity and past wildlife-related accidents.

Cooper emphasized that the purpose of the signs is to alert drivers about potential elk crossings, ultimately aiming to prevent accidents and save the lives of both drivers and elk. Nielsen concurred, adding that it is now the responsibility of drivers to exercise caution and reduce speed in the designated areas.

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