The sprawling Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian reservation in the western part of North Carolina is trying to bring back a cultural symbol: White-tailed deer.

The tribe is partnering with state wildlife agencies in a long-term project it hopes will replenish the deer population on the 56,000-acre reservation.

Over the next three years, between 25 and 50 white-tailed deer will be relocated from Morrow Mountain State Park to the reservation.

The Cherokees will place the animals in a special habitat improved for browsing and off-limits to hunting. The program will begin this month.

Cherokee Principal Chief Michell Hicks praised the project.

White-tailed deer figure prominently in Cherokee lore and cultural traditions. But there's only a sparse population of the animal on the reservation, which is in parts of four counties.