Seashore elk population drops

03/06/2014

A drastic drop in the tule elk population in the Point Reyes National Seashore last year was likely the consequence of pitiful rainfalls in 2013, which depleted available forage and water, according to the National Park Service. Overall, the numbers dropped from 700 elk in 2012 to under 504 last year. But different herds suffered varying losses; the herd at Tomales Point declined 34 percent, from 540 to 357 animals, while a smaller herd in the Limantour wilderness dropped by 25 percent. One herd at Drakes Beach, which has frustrated some ranches and dairies by lapping up water and eating grasses used to graze cattle in the pastoral zone, actually grew from 66 to 76 elk. Seashore biologists have also been filling ponds and restoring grasslands on nearby defunct ranches to draw elk away from working ranches. Last September, the Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association asked the park to move these elk back to the Limantour wilderness, a request they made many times over the last decade, but the park has said its management policies preclude their relocation.