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Dairy and Death for Point Reyes’ Tule Elk

Updated: Nov 10, 2020


The Tule Elk, a subspecies of Elk, are the largest native land mammal to California and were reintroduced to Point Reyes in 1978.


Conflict between humans and wildlife is no foreign concept to Point Reyes National Seashore, home to a large variety of flora and fauna. The National Park Service which administers Point Reyes is accepting public opinion until November 30th about a proposed policy to expand leases for Dairy and Beef Farms by 20 years and allow more aggressive land management policies for Elk that compete with cattle. The history of Cattle Ranchers at Point Reyes goes back centuries all the way to the Gold Rush. Point Reyes’ climate welcomed small cattle ranchers during the early 1850s before the land became consolidated under a group of small dairy operations that produced a line of Point Reyes cheese and butter products. This empire continued until the Great Depression when the demand diminished causing the iconic ranches to be sold to various small time ranchers. In the 1950s and 60s, development was proposed where Point Reyes National Seashore stands but was fended off by Ranching families and the Sierra Club. Finally in 1962, Point Reyes National Seashore was created with a promise to protect the historic ranches and the natural landscape. It was not for another 16 years that the previously extirpated Tule Elk were brought back into Point Reyes in a small herd of 10 individuals. The latest population census taken in 2009 suggests that there are now over 440 Elk in the park. Although a successful story, this number is staggeringly low compared to the original population of Tule Elk in California before European Settlement. There was an estimated 500,000 Tule Elk in California compared to the estimated 4,000 today.

Now the controversy over this proposal comes down to one question, is it possible for the Elk to live alongside the Ranchers peacefully? Now there are varying opinions on this issue and three options if the Park Service decides to take management action. They can either relocate the herd to another area, likely outside the park, exterminate the herd, or push them out of the area.

Just because the Tule Elk is not protected under the Endangered Species Act does not mean it is not worthy of protection. The National Park Service’s duty is to manage our public lands how the people intend because at the end of the day they are our lands. Point Reyes belongs to every one of us not in ownership but stewardship. Even considering the option of lethal removal is unacceptable. The Tule Elk are a symbol of the beautiful biodiversity that California has to offer. We cannot take this richness of species for granted and let them vanish like our Grizzly Bears.

At the end of the day, the Tule Elk are an obstacle to the Agricultural Industry and will become another name on a long list of animals that have been shoved into the far corners of the Earth or disappear entirely because of human greed. I don’t know about you, but I will not stand by and let that happen on my public lands. If you agree with me, or even if you don’t care that much, I implore you to write a letter, go to a meeting, or submit an online comment. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but every individual matters or no one matters. If we cannot save these animals, who is to say that we can save the next? Where do we draw the line? Write a letter.

Written by — Joe Sweeney


How can I make my opinions heard?

Online comments can be sent in online until November 30th here.

Meetings are being held at

  1. West Marin School Gym, Point Reyes Station CA, Nov. 14th, 5 – 7 PM

  2. Bay Model Visitor Center, Sausilito CA, Nov. 15th, 5 – 7 PM

Mail in Letters can be addressed to:

GMP Amendment c/o Superintendent,

Point Reyes National Seashore, 1 Bear Valley Road,

Point Reyes Station, CA 94956.


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