The animal had grown accustomed to humans and would approach with no fear while looking for hand-outs.
But when photographer James York sat on the side of the road and the elk nudged him consistently with his head officials at the park made the decision to put the animal down.
York had video taken of the encounter and it went viral on YouTube with two million views.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports officials at North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park were worried the elk wouldn’t be as gentle with others as it was with York.
They also say the animals habit of eating "people food" was a "critical step in the decision-making."
Workers say they did try to scare the elk away and went so far as to move him to another part of the park but neither worked.
Vince Camiolo took the video, he was devastated to hear about what happened.
"It has certainly pulled a black cloud over this whirlwind 'viral video' experience," he said.
York added similar sentiments. "I am deeply hurt by the loss of such a beautiful creature that in its own way bonded with me. I looked forward to watching him grow to a mature bull as the years passed."