MEDIA RELEASE: Mercy Mission for Dying Tule Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore Sabotaged by National Park Service

MEDIA RELEASE: Mercy Mission for Dying Tule Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore Sabotaged by National Park Service

Point Reyes, Calif. (Dec 22, 2020) — In Defense of Animals has applauded 20 daring wildlife and national park protectors who defied National Park Service (NPS) orders for a second time and risked arrest in a bold, carefully planned nighttime operation to bring 150 gallons of water to Tule elk. During California’s drought this year, more than 18 Tule elk died in the Tule elk reserve at Point Reyes National Seashore. The animals are blocked from reaching perennial sources by an 8-foot-tall fence to ensure resources for private ranchers. The action took place before the winter rains came, but were thwarted by the NPS which removed troughs before the thirsty Tule elk could drink.

“The actions of the National Park Service speak loud and clear: private ranching business is favored over public opinion and the lives of native wild animals at Point Reyes National Seashore,” says Fleur Dawes, of In Defense of Animals. “Removing water from thirsty and dying rare Tule elk is despicable. New plans to start shooting them are utterly disgusting. Bay Area residents overwhelmingly want these native wild animals protected over private interests. We support the merciful actions of these brave animal activists and urge everyone to take urgent action to save the Tule elk at”

The mission was especially arduous, but worthwhile for all ‘elktivists’ — some in their seventies — who hoped their efforts would directly benefit at least some of the native elk. Tule elk aren’t free to roam for water and forage outside the reserve’s enclosure, which activists insist should be dismantled as unnatural, unnecessary and harmful to all wildlife in the park.

Video recorded by Silver Reaction Media shows a peaceful but physically demanding action with over a dozen animal advocates hauling water in various containers and packs hundreds of yards over rough ground, in coastal fog, on a dark, moonless night.

Off-camera, others kept watch, signaling any arrival of sheriff and park rangers. All maintained quiet, using minimal light, so park visitors, rangers and live-in ranchers would remain unaware of the group action underway. 

However, the video shows that rangers discovered the activists, confronted them, and vowed to return and “take it all out.”

Local activists had previously delivered fresh drinking water and troughs to the elk, only to have it taken away within days by NPS staff. The NPS’ refusal to provide water for these elk is a disturbing repeat of similar “forced die-off” by thirst and starvation the agency created in the California drought of 2013-14 — which killed around half of the nation’s largest herd of 540 Tule elk. It has taken years for the herd to recover to just 420 individuals today. The agency took no action then, only saying what it says now, that there is adequate water and they have a “contingency plan” in place should the need arise.

Photographers have documented over 18 elk deaths in recent months, apparently from a lack of access to adequate water and forage during a drought that continued into December. This year, the NPS not only refused to act but deliberately removed water from hundreds of majestic animals trapped in the unnatural elk reserve enclosure, forcing the animals to suffer months of drought. These needless deaths are only the most obvious of numerous, egregious, anti-wildlife and pro-industry policies that park rangers are required to enforce at the Seashore.  

Activists cross a cattle guard to bring water — and attention — to California’s rare, suffering wild Tule elk at Point Reyes National Seashore. Photo: Silver Reaction Media

Currently, over a third of the Point Reyes park’s so-called “wilderness area” is occupied by modern industrial animal businesses that supply beef and milk to brands including Clover Sonoma, Straus Family Creamery, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, and Cowgirl Creamery.

Despite widespread public opposition, in September, the NPS released a management plan (Alternative B) that would extend these private beef and dairy leases for ranchers from five-years to 20-years, in addition to expanding industrial operations inside this national park, and allow the shooting of native Tule elk.  

“Dairy brands like Straus, Clover, Nicasio Cheese and Cowgirl Creamery are complicit in the killing of Tule elk so long as they source milk from Point Reyes,” said Dawes.

Ranchers supplying these dairy companies do not own the Point Reyes land their cattle degrade and pollute. They sold their properties to the federal government for the equivalent of $350 million in the 1960s to establish the park, and now lease back the land at under-market rates. Maintenance on the concentrated animal feeding operations is funded by taxpayers.

“Self-styled ‘environmental’ politicians have kowtowed to private interests that pollute and degrade our Seashore for too long; it must end now,” Dawes added. “When it meets in January, we urge the California Coastal Commission to stop the horrific pollution of coastal zones around the Point Reyes National Seashore which are being filled with fecal contamination by cows.”

Thousands of American citizens and dozens of local organizations including In Defense of Animals, ForELK, TreeSpirit Project, Rancho Compasión, Save Point Reyes National Seashore, Resource Renewal Institute, The Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Watersheds Project, are lobbying for Alternative F. This plan would remove all livestock operations from Point Reyes, thus restoring its creators’ original vision of a truly wild and pristine national park in the San Francisco Bay Area, remove fencing to allow Tule elk to roam free, and improve opportunities for the park’s 1.7 million annual visitors.

“The 340+ miles of fencing, erected only at the request of the commercial cattle operations, is a direct contradiction of a national park’s purpose: being one of the few places in America where our priceless heritage of precious few remaining wild animals are safe from threats of hunting, development, and businesses,” said Jack Gescheidt, of TreeSpirit Project. “Elk, wildlife, and Point Reyes fans and protectors can take action by emailing comments to the California Coastal Commission to encourage them to REJECT the National Park Service’s recommended management plan which expands this National Seashore's cruel beef and dairy operations at the expense of its wildlife. It’s time to remind the Park Service that the public wants to see wild native Tule elk given preference over private animal agriculture, especially given how cows are damaging the land and polluting soil, waterways and the Pacific Ocean.”

Members of the public are urged to email comments to the California Coastal Commission to encourage them to reject the NPS’ recommended management plan which expands this National Seashore's cruel beef and dairy operations at the expense of its wildlife:



Take Action:

The Shame of Point Reyes film:

Killing of a Native Species film:

Deadly conditions for Tule elk in the “reserve”:



In Defense of Animals, Lisa Levinson,, 215-620-2130
ForELK, Diana Oppenheim,, 248-840-5684  
The TreeSpirit Project, Jack Gescheidt,, 415-488-4200


In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin with over 250,000 supporters and a 37-year history of protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats through education, campaigns, and hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.

ForELK is a grassroots organization of people who fight for the protection of the Tule elk and their habitat within Point Reyes National Seashore. They work toward public engagement through education, direct outreach, network building, political demonstrations, and protests.

TreeSpirit Project is a celebration of our interdependence with nature. Thousands of people have participated in his fine art photography sessions to raise awareness of the critical role of trees and wild spaces in our lives. 


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