Cows take precedence over Tule elk as federal government plans to cull herd

The world’s largest remaining herd of the native rare Tule elk are dying of thirst at the Point Reyes National Seashore after ranchers erected an eight-foot high fence separating the elk from leased dairy and meat farms. The tule elk are found only in California, including Coyote Ridge and parts of Alameda County. Altogether the population has increased to 5,700 after nearly going extinct more than a century ago from hunters and habitat loss.

The elk are a main attraction at the park which has become a sanctuary for plants, animals, marine life and migrating birds. More than two million visitors arrive each year to see the beautiful elk and listen to their unique high-pitched bugle sounds.

In direct contrast to a display of Mother Nature’s finest, are the 20 cattle ranchers who have operated in the park since the mid 1800s. The ranchers complain the elk have now overpopulated the area at Point Reyes and are disruptive to their cattle grazing.

According to Inside Climate News, ranchers have degraded the land making it look like a “lunar landscape,” and the environmentalists and activists want to preserve the land as wilderness to protect the elk and other species. The elk have been trapped behind fences with dwindling water supply because of the recent drought and fires. The fences keep wildlife from mingling with ranching, which occupies 26,100 acres of parkland.

Since the elk have no predators in the park, their numbers have continued to increase and now affects the ranchers who sold their land to the federal government in 1962, but continued their cattle raising under renewable five-year permits. In 2016, environmental groups sued the government for extending leases to 20 years without fully analyzing the environmental impact. A settlement the next year required the park service to solicit public input and  to review the 2020 Environmental Impact Statement before extending leases to 20 years.

Of the 7,600 public comments received within the 30 days, an overwhelming majority expressed the desire to eliminate ranching from the park altogether. On September 18, the park service released its decision, however which was to cull the herd and allow the leases to be extended.

The park looked into moving some of the elk to other locations, but the tule elk within the park are known to have a highly contagious disease (Johne’s Disease) and because the symptoms don’t show for months, could put healthy elk in danger. Environmental scientists say the elk could have caught the disease from the cattle in Point Reyes, but can only be tested by a necropsy.

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“ForELK is a movement in support of saving the Tule Elk of Point Reyes National Seashore. We are an independent organization that is not affiliated with any other animal rights groups.

Point Reyes National Seashore has released their General Land Management Plan. It grants 20-year leases to the ranching operations, allows ranchers to diversify their business to include sheep, goats, chickens and row crops, allows other commodification, and gives the park a license to kill the wild Tule Elk that could interfere with their business. This is a shockingly anti-wildlife plan!”

Read prior article here.

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