Tule Elk

Tule Elk home

*IMPORTANT NOTICE: 12/14/21 the latest Tule elk death count has just been revealed. Stay tuned for more info and actions.


In Defense of Animals is fighting for the survival of the rare Tule elk.

The Tule elk are a unique species, native only to California, with the largest community found at Point Reyes National Seashore. After being hunted almost to extinction in the 1870s — with only 10 individuals remaining — over a century of conservation efforts and increased protections have seen their numbers grow to about 600 in Point Reyes and 6,000 worldwide.

But their survival is once again being threatened.

The National Park Service (NPS), whose mission it is to protect and conserve wild animals like the Tule elk, is starving Tule elk to death on a massive scale and planning to shoot others in Point Reyes every year. The NPS has leased thousands of acres of federally-owned parkland at this national seashore to dairy and meat ranchers. Over 5,600 privately-owned, for-profit cows, compete with just 600 elk for land, food and water — with lethal results for the Tule elk.

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The history. In 1994, In Defense of Animals blocked a plan that would allow bowhunting of Tule elk at the Pt. Reyes National Seashore; replacing the killing with a contraceptive program.

The drought of 2020. In the summer of 2020, gruesome photographs emerged of Tule elk dead from thirst in the Tule Elk Preserve at Point Reyes National Seashore. In Defense of Animals sprang into action alongside other activists advocating water be provided for the Preserve’s fenced-in Tule elk — but the NPS repeatedly refused. We supported activists who risked their own freedom and safety, entering Point Reyes under the cover of darkness to provide the protected species this basic resource. However, rangers sabotaged efforts to save the Tule elk, dumping out troughs of water on two separate occasions.

The 2020 drought is only one in many years of California droughts. From 2012-to-2014, over half of the Seashore’s largest of three herds died — 254 of 540 elk in the fenced Tule Elk Preserve. This preventable tragedy occurred while dairies continued their usual, massive infusion of water and food to their enslaved cows-for-profit. Another drought is anticipated this summer-autumn of 2021. In Defense of Animals will continue lobbying the Park Service for remedies both immediate and long-term.

The NPS is planning even worse. Unbelievably, the Park Service supports a plan to shoot some Tule elk at the request of ranchers. Point Reyes, a rare, safe haven for this magnificent, protected species, would become a hunting ground. This is wild animal brutality, in a national park system, despite overwhelming public disapproval. A survey of 7,627 people, conducted by the Park Service itself, found 91% wanted elk left alone, and cows out of the park. Tule elk are a national attraction, not factory farms.

Pollution is no solution. Point Reyes has now degraded from a national park unit into a national cesspool. Water testing initiated and funded by In Defense of Animals and Western Watersheds Project has exposed how Point Reyes’ factory farms have contaminated its waterway with E.coli, enterococci, and other harmful coliform bacteria from massive amounts of cow manure. Precious coastal wildlife habitat is polluted and trampled, all so cows can be confined, abused, and killed for the meat and dairy industry.

The fate of the iconic California Tule elk is now in the hands of animal, wildlife, and wildland advocates like In Defense of Animals.

What We’re Doing To Save The Tule Elk

In Defense of Animals is leading a pioneering campaign to save the Tule elk.

Working with other animal and environmentalist groups, we have:

  • Supported activists providing water for at-risk Tule elk who are starved by rancher-first policies
  • Put the Tule elk on the national agenda by securing widespread media coverage
  • Organized protests against NPS negligence in Point Reyes
  • Drawn attention to the Tule elk's plight in high profile media like Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, ABC7 News, The Independent and many more
  • Partnered with local organizations, experts and activists
  • Urged politicians to take a stand for the survival of the Tule elk population
  • Organized and funded scientific testing documenting negligence and desecration of our national park unit
  • Spoken out for the Tule elk at stakeholder meetings

What You Can Do To Save The Tule elk

In Defense of Animals is leading a pioneering campaign to save the Tule elk.


Tule elk trapped and dying in the "Reserve" at Point Reyes National Cesspool Penitentiary


cattle farmed for meat and dairy in the National Park unit, starving the Tule elk of food and water

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