Tule elks are the smallest sub-species of North American Elks that are found only in the grasslands and wetlands of California. Having gotten their name from eating the Tule grass found only in these parts, these animals roamed across California in huge numbers, believed to be at least half a million before the 1850’s.
But the mad rush to hunt these wonderful creatures during the Gold rush and a decline in grazing land led to their count falling to as low as 28 in 1895 (source: wikipedia). They were even thought to be extinct, but for the effort of a good hearted California ranger called Henry Miller, who saved around 20 elks and reared their population towards recovery. Otherwise, these wonderful creatures would have been gone.. forever! Damning humans!!!
Today, their count is believed to be around 4000 (wikipedia / Point Reyes newsletter). A good number of these are found in Point Reyes National seashore area.
On May 8th and 9th, Adarsh and I had been to Point Reyes where we stayed at Hostels International for 2 nights. (Highly recommended place. Costs only 22$ per night). Point Reyes is huge. We visited a few places like Tomales point (and beach), Drakes beach, the light house, Bear valley, etc.
We located Tule Elks at three spots mainly.
- At the Tomales point, 2 Km before the end of the Tomale hike. We saw atleast 20 of them, but were all pretty far away from us (pic immediately above).
- Enroute to Drakes beach (Limantour wilderness area). We got some good shots here in the golden evening light. The 1st picture above is from that spotting.
- On the grasslands near Point Reyes light house
Tule elks aside, Adarsh was very keen on spotting Mountain lions too. But we didnt spot any. However, our 2 days in Point Reyes were well spent and we were very happy for having spotted the Elks at the top of the Limantour area in excellent light.
If you are around the place, do not miss Point Reyes! However, do keep in mind that public transport is almost non-existent here and you would need a car. Also, if you intend to stay at Point Reyes hostel, take your own food stuff to cook as you will only get a stove there.