The Tule Elk at Point Reyes

Update: Mid-August update 2011: The tule elk begin their annual rut season. Larger males sizing each another and establishing harems. On weekends, docents set up scopes at Tomales Point to get a closer look.

The tule elk is a subspecies of elk that is unique to California. Nearly hunted to extinction during the Gold Rush, the tule elk received federal protection in 1971. Pierce Point, the north point of the Point Reyes peninsula, is now a 2,600 acre reserve for the tule elk. In the fall, it is a warm, beautiful hike with the opportunity to see the elk rut season. You are likely to hear bull elks bugle, spar and try to form their harems of females.

Some facts from the National Park Service:

Female elk are sexually mature by two years of age, although they may be able to breed as yearlings. Nearly all female elk will reproduce during their lifetime. A female is likely to have six to ten calves in her lifetime. Males are sexually mature at age two, but usually aren?t able to breed until they are strong enough to compete with other bulls to defend a harem of cows. Half the male population will remain bachelors; most breeding is accomplished by ten percent of the male population.

Videos by the NPS:

This video was created by the National Park Service’s Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center as part of its 2004 “Science Behind the Scenery” DVD.

Tule Elk: California’s Legacy of Wildness chronicles the fascinating and inspirational story of the tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) which are native to California and can be viewed at the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve. Since pre-historic times, large herds of tule elk roamed California’s central valley and coastal plains. Unfortunately, they were hunted to near-extinction by the late 19th century. Tule Elk examines how the dramatic rebound of the tule elk population at Point Reyes National Seashore and in California at large demonstrates the success of threatened species protections and conservation laws.

A good newsletter that documents the return of the Tule Elk.