A study of the impact of elk in Cherokee has found that they bring at least $29 million, including 400 jobs, to the area each year — of which $7 million and 100 jobs go directly to the Qualla Boundary.

Our Fisheries & Wildlife Management Department commissioned the study, which was completed by Responsive Management, a survey research firm. They conducted telephone surveys of tribal members as well as an online survey of visitors to the area. Their complete report can be read here.

A few highlights:

  • The vast majority of tribal members (80%) like having elk around, although some of those members like them but worry about the problems that elk cause (24%). A relatively small percentage of members (7%) regard elk as a nuisance. Combined, 30% of members have concerns about elk.
  • Most EBCI members (61%) think the elk herd on the Qualla Boundary is the right size. Some others think it is too high (19%) or too low (13%).
  • About two thirds of visitors who travel to the Cherokee area name wildlife-viewing as one of their objectives (63%).
  • Elk viewing is likely generating at least $29 million in economic impacts to the Cherokee area from visitors (and perhaps more). This economic impact accounts for about 400 jobs in the area. It was calculated that a quarter of these impacts in the Cherokee area go to the Qualla Boundary itself: approximately $7 million in impacts and approximately 100 jobs result from elk viewing.
  • Twice as many EBCI members have problems with people viewing elk as with the elk themselves. About 13% reported problems with elk, while 26% reported problems with people viewing elk (traffic jams, illegal parking, etc).

For more information, please read our news release in the Cherokee One Feather or consult the full report.