Tule Elke at Point Reyes

As promised, I have a LOT more photos from Point Reyes, which I absolutely loved. From a wildlife perspective – which is the perspective I most often look at things – Point Reyes is probably best known for its tule elk population. Tule elk are an elk species that live only in California, and after nearly disappearing in the mid 19th century, a herd was reintroduced to Point Reyes in 1978. Their numbers increased until the last year or two. This year, great numbers of the elk that were in a fenced-in area have died due to the drought. Conservationists believe they could have saved themselves if they hadn’t been fenced in. Fences, which are used in some areas of Point Reyes and not others, are controversial: the local ranchers want all of the elk to be fenced to keep them from competing with their cattle for resources, while others want all the fences removed because they are cruel. You can probably guess which side of that fence I’m on.

Early fall is a great time to view the tule elk as it is rutting time. In fact, the National Park Service has spotting scope-armed docents at Pierce Point Ranch on weekends between August and October to teach the public about these interesting animals. I saw my first elk just minutes after setting off on the Tomales Point trail.
tule elk-2

tule elk-6

I have many, many landscape pictures from this trip to share in upcoming posts, but this picture is actually an elk picture: you can see them in the lower right.
Tomales Bay-5

To properly see the elk in the photo above I needed to look through my 400mm lens, but just a short distance further down the trail, I came across 8 or 10 elk that were so close I had to take the lens off in order to fit even one of them in the frame! In fact, I could have touched a couple of them.
tule elk - these were so close I could have touched them

This guy is smacking his lips after savoring a tasty shrub.
tule elk licking his lips-2

The Tomales Point trail is 4.7 miles one way. I don’t prefer out-and-back trails, but this one is SO GORGEOUS it was a pleasure to walk it in both directions. Due to a late start following a car mishap, I had to turn around before the final mile so I only did 7.5 miles before the sun set, but as I neared the trailhead as it got close to twilight, I encountered this sweet mother and baby, which was a nice conclusion to a truly lovely day.
momma and baby tule elk-2

Next up: RAPTORS!

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One Comment

  1. Nikki
    November 2, 2015

    Great wildlife photos, Nae! I need to work on my ninja mode. I just manage to scare everything off.

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