Tule Elk - Cervus elaphus nannodes
Tule Elk - Cervus elaphus
Image Source: KQED QUEST
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The Tule Elk is endemic to California. It is the smallest subspecies of North American Elk - Cervus elaphus nannodes. The other two subspecies, also found in California, are Roosevelt Elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) and Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni).
In the early 1800's Tule Elk were quite abundant in the Bay area but were driven to local extinction by the 1870's. A small remnant herd was discovered in Southern California, in 1874, on private property of Henry Miller. They were gradually reintroduced into the Mt. Hamilton region between 1978 and 1981 resulting in herds getting established in Isabel Valley, San Antonio Valley, San Felipe, Metcalf Canyon, Coyote Ridge, Anderson Reservoir and surrounding areas. They were also reintroduced to other Bay area locations including Point Reyes, Concord Naval Weapons Station and Grizzly Island. As of 2013, there are 22 populations in California with over 4000 elk. The elk's recovery from local extinction is a remarkable success story.
Where to View
- Point Reyes National Seashore is a great place to get an almost sure sighting of elk. There are a few hundred animals here. The elk can be found in multiple locations but the best chance of seeing them is in the Tule Elk Preserve at Tomales Point. They are often seen near the road inside the Preserve and other places along Pierce Point Road. A smaller herd has been established around Drakes Beach and Limantour.
- There is a herd near Sunol Regional Wilderness which tends to stay away from the roads and trails. We were lucky to see and photograph the herd near Sunol off the road leading from Hwy 680 to the park. We have also seen them off Mines Road south of Livermore.
- You may get a lucky sighting of the elk in the hills east of Highway 101 in Coyote Valley. The newly acquired Coyote Ridge Open Space Preserve will be a good place to see them.
- Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in Solano County is another place to see elk with high likelihood. Somewhere between July and September, it is closed to the public to allow for controlled hunting.
Tule Elk herd near Sunol Regional Wilderness
Articles and Links
- Bugling call of the Elk -
- Tule Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore -
- Elk Return to the Bay Area - KQED QUEST Flickr Photo set
- The Biology of the Tule Elk, including distribution maps of the 3 subspecies in California, by the California Department of Fish and Game
- Tule Elk by Point Reyes National Seashore Association
- Tule Elk Relocated As Numbers Rebound, by Elizabeth Davitt, BayNature, May 2014.
- How a cattle baron saved California's elk from extinction, by Jaymi Heimbuch, treehugger, Oct 2013