Over-hunting and habitat destruction eliminated the Eastern elk from the Smoky Mountains by the mid-1800s. Now the National Park Service seeks to introduce the Manitoban elk, a close relative of the extinct Eastern elk, to the Smoky Mountains National Park. In February 2001, twenty-five elk were released. Another twenty-five will be released in 2002 and 2003. If the species can sustain itself over a five-year period, it will be allowed to remain.