MEDIA RELEASE: NPS Negligence Kills Half the Tule Elk Trapped in Point Reyes National Seashore “Reserve”

MEDIA RELEASE: NPS Negligence Kills Half the Tule Elk Trapped in Point Reyes National Seashore “Reserve”

POINT REYES, Calif. (December 17, 2021)In Defense of Animals and TreeSpirit Project are appalled by the shocking number of Tule elk killed at Point Reyes National Seashore. Numbers released by the National Park Service (NPS) show the rare animals are continuing to die while public calls to free the elk from confinement increase.

NPS released the latest census on December 14. It shows that only 221 Tule elk remain in the Tomales Point herd, where they are confined in a “Reserve” and prevented from accessing adequate water and forage during an ongoing drought. The population has declined by 72 from 293 elk counted during the 2020 census, which follows a staggering drop from 445 elk in 2019. In just two years, the Tule elk population has halved.

“The National Park Service’s chilling, annual Tule elk count could more accurately be called an annual ‘Elk Death Count,’ and the ‘Reserve’ called a ‘Lethal Zoo Enclosure.’ Many more elk have died, despite warnings to the Park Service from hundreds of upset, outraged environmentalists, Indigenous peoples’ rights representatives, biologists, conservationists, wildlife advocates, and citizen-activists,” said activist Jack Gescheidt of In Defense of Animals and TreeSpirit Project.

“The federal agency assigned to protect rare Tule elk in this unique, seaside national park has instead fenced them in and killed off half of them in just two seasons,” added Gescheidt.

The deaths represent half of the magnificent, rare elk whom the public adores — 50% of the Tule elk whom the public travels from all over America to see. The Tule elk are a popular attraction for the park’s 2 million annual visitors from across America. Visitors do not travel to Point Reyes to see cows exploited by for-profit businesses denuding and polluting 28,000 acres or one-third of the park, which is a fact public surveys confirm — and the NPS ignores.

The recurring large Tule elk death tolls are not “natural population declines” due to the “carrying capacity” of the “Reserve” in times of drought — because these terms only apply to wild Tule elk, not to animals confined inside a zoo-like compound. 

“The heartbreaking deaths of trapped Tule elk are exactly what In Defense of Animals and other Bay Area organizations have been sounding the alarm about all along. Now 72 more of these iconic elk have tragically died. The fence confining the Tule elk needs to come down now, and this latest death toll proves it,” said Fleur Dawes, Communications Director for In Defense of Animals which has been active in the campaign to free the Tule elk, as well as remove the park’s private cattle operations which is the reason why elk are confined at all.

Many elk who haven’t yet died are unhealthy due to a lack of year-round forage (edible vegetation). The fence at Tomales Point also creates an unhealthy, genetic bottleneck, forcing interbreeding — if the elk are able to breed at all. It’s a disaster for the Tule elk, who now number fewer than 6,000 in the world — about the same number of cows at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The campaign to free the Tule elk is escalating. Baywatch star Alexandra Paul and sportscaster Bonnie-Jill Laflin joined the movement on December 6 at a San Francisco rally. They called to remove factory farms from Point Reyes National Seashore and restore wild animals to their full range in the national park unit.

On six separate occasions, activists have risked arrest to bring water in for elk in the Reserve, which the NPS refused to provide. Finally, mounting public pressure forced the NPS to reverse course and provide water troughs and mineral blocks, but it is not a long-term solution. The NPS continues to refuse to provide any supplemental food or remove the fence, which restricts access to natural food and wate sources.  As a result, the confined Tule elk will continue to suffer and die.

The public is encouraged to learn more and take action:


Contact: In Defense of Animals/TreeSpirit Project, Jack Gescheidt, [email protected], 415-488-4200

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin, California, with over 250,000 supporters and a 38-year history of fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.

The TreeSpirit Project raises awareness of the crucial role of forest, wildlife and the natural world in the lives of humans. Thousands of people have taken part in fine art community photographs that give people a sensory, real-world experience of this interconnection, beyond the virtual internet.