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Individual study: Successful reintroduction of tule elk Cervus elaphus nannodes to grass scrubland at Point Reyes National Seashore, California, USA

Published source details

Adess N. (1998) Tule elk; return of a species. National Park Service Point Reyes National Seashore, California, USA



A subspecies of North American elk Cervus elaphus, the tule elk C.e.nannodes is endemic to California, southwest USA. By 1860, tule elk had been nearly hunted to extinction. In 1905 their population was estimated to be 140 individuals. Fortunately, most land that they inhabited was owned by Henry Miller. He felt the need to protect the elk, and captured and moved some to other locations in California. This is the first time elk have been recorded a being moved for conservation purposes. Tule elk received official protection in 1971. Then numbering 500, hunting was prohibited until their population reached 2,000. Here a reintroduction to Point Reyes National Seashore reserve is summarised.



In spring 1978, two male and eight female elk were translocated from an inland locality (San Luis Island Wildlife Refuge near the town of Los Banos in the Central Valley) to Tomales Point, the northernmost part of Point Reyes National Seashore. The reserve comprises 1,052 ha of open grassland and coastal scrub. The elk were contained within a temporary, three acre (1.2 ha) enclosure to allow for adjustment to their new surroundings. During the summer whilst still confined to the enclosure, six of the females calved. In the autumn, 17 elk were released from the enclosure out onto Tomales Point.


By the summer of 1988, the population had risen to 93 animals. After 10 years of drought, the return of the rains in the early 1990s, bought about much improved habitat conditions and the elk herd grew rapidly. A census in 2000 counted over 400 elk with the population size estimated to be about 550. Tule elk have spread from their original release area and now occur in several locations within the park.
By 1998, there were more than 3,000 tule elk in California.
Note: If using or referring to this study, please read and quote the original publication.