National Park Service spokesperson Molly Schroer told WBIR the elk had become too accustomed to humans, and instead of fearing people, associated them with food. Officials added the photographer featured in the video shouldn't be blamed for the animal's fate, as the elk's overly inquisitive nature predated this particular encounter.
In the video, photographer James York is approached by the young bull elk on the side of the road. The animal attempts to tangle horns with York, hitting him in the head repeatedly. After nearly seven minutes, York cautiously distances himself from the animal and seeks shelter in a nearby car.
Park officials attempted to re-train the animal to fear humans before ultimately deciding to euthanize it. Their methods included using firecrackers, bean bag guns and even tranquilizing the elk and moving it to another location. “Unfortunately for that elk," spokeswoman Dana Soehn told the Asheville, N.C., Citizen Times, "He was just not responding to that aversion.”
Vince Camiolo, the photographer who captured the encounter on video, issued a statement on YouTube following the news. "I am deeply saddened by the fate of the elk," he wrote. "It has certainly pulled a black cloud over this whirlwind 'viral video' experience."
Camiolo again emphasized that York was not in any way responsible for the elk's behavior. "The elk approached [York] from behind, likely looking for food as he was conditioned to do."
WATCH the original video, below: