The National Park Service has been ordered to federal court on Monday to explain their treatment of Tule Elk in Point Reyes National Seashore. The emergency court meeting comes after intensifying protests and a lawsuit from Harvard Animal Law.
Tensions are reaching an all time high in Point Station following months of activists protesting the treatment of one of Californiaâ€™s largest herd and the National Park Serviceâ€™s decision to limit tule elk populations in favor of cattle ranchers. An NPS report detailed that Â 152 tule elk died in Point Reyes National Seashore in 2020. With extreme drought conditions reaching the national park along the Marin coast, activists are worried that number could be much higher this year.
After all, tule elk are supposed to be federally protected.
“Everybody knows that California is enduring a record-breaking drought right now, and this is only June,” said Environmentalist Jack Gescheidt. “It’s not even July yet. We have July, August, September, October, November. All that’s drought, and there are elk dying right now for lack of food and water.”
The problem lies within a fence that runs from Tomales Bay to the ocean, keeping the heard from much of the drinking water in the area. The fence keeps the elk out of the land of cattle ranchers with a unique opportunity to operate on federal land. The fence also restricts the elk from the wetlands of the park.
In June, three large troughs were placed at the south end of the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve in order to provide more water for the elk during the drought. The gravity-fed water troughsÂ are continuously replenished by a 2,000-gallon tank located on Pierce Point Road and include escape ramps for smaller wildlife who might get stuck in them.
In December 2020, activists defied orders from the National Park Service toÂ haul in 150 gallons of drinking waterÂ for the animals. The actions were met with resistance from NPS officers, but they ultimately let the water stay in place. According to the activists, the elk are â€œthirsty and dying.â€
The Point Reyes elk is one of the largest herds in California, and because theyâ€™ve taken up a home at residence of the grassy fields near Drakes Beach, they are competing with dairy cows for grass feeding. So when the National Park Service released its final plan to extend the leases of the ranches within the park from 5-years to 20-years, it included limiting the population of the competing tule elk.
The plan calls for reducing and limiting the tule elk population to 120. According to the activists, 18 elk died during the 2020 drought because of a fence for private ranching that prevents them from reaching seasonal water sources.