Four Tule Elk, Point Reyes

Four Tule Elk, Point Reyes
Four Tule Elk, Point Reyes

Four Tule Elk, Point Reyes. Point Reyes National Seashore, California. May 30, 2011. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Four tule elk in the meadows at Point Reyes National Seashore.

When the day started I had no idea that I might be photographing wildlife today, much less tule elk! In fact, today was meant to be primarily a photography day. We decided to spend the day on a coastal drive, starting with breakfast in Santa Cruz and then heading north to… wherever we ended up. We had a vague idea that it might be interesting to end up at Point Reyes Station perhaps, where there was an open art studio event going on.

By mid-afternoon, that is indeed where we ended up. We stopped in town to get coffee and a snack and wander about just a bit. With no specific plan in mind we sort of decided to head on out to Point Reyes – the actual “point,” not just the general park. On the way back we took a detour down to Drakes Bay for a quick stop. As we drive back up from there to the top of the hill near the main road we saw some strange shapes in the distance behind a fence. The looked like antlers, but that didn’t seem right – this particular area is dairy country and the elk that I had heard about were in a different area of the park. But as we reached the top of the hill it became completely obvious that a small herd of tule elk were grazing right on the other side of the fence. We pulled over and I grabbed my long lens. The elk were kind enough to occasionally look up from the business of grazing and pose dramatically in the low late-afternoon light from the west.

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9 thoughts on “Four Tule Elk, Point Reyes”

  1. I love your work… not just the pictures but your life experience, the places you have visited, skies so beautiful, animals so alive!

    I just can’t stop looking at them.

    I aspire

  2. Pat, thanks for that information. I had read about the Tomales Bay group in the past but was unaware that they had spread to this area of the park – but clearly they have! These were on the low ridge above Drakes Beach.


  3. Great shot of the bulls, Dan! They look quite handsome with their large velvet antlers. In case you were curious about the location of the elk, you came across some of the “free-ranging” herd in the park. After the initial 10 were brought to the reserve on Tomales Point in the late 1970s the population grew to more than the carrying capacity of the Reserve — around 500 or so by the late 1990s. To help reduce the population in the Reserve and to help re-establish an important ecological role in other areas of the park, a portion of the herd was transplanted into the Limantour Wilderness Area (which more or less stretches from Limantour Beach to Drake’s Beach).

  4. Patti and Richard, thanks for your comments!

    Patti, they are pretty attentive and aware beasts. I think that they were paying attention to a few things: the rest of the herd that was to the right of the frame, and to some other photographers who were to the left.

    Richard, if I understand correctly – and I’m no expert on elk! – the breeding season comes up in July. So I think that the “guys club” may hang out together at this point for a while. There were actually more than four males in this group. I’d have to check my other shots to count up the total but it could have been about twice the number seen here. Pretty exciting!


  5. Fantastic shot Dan, especially getting four Bull Elk in the same frame. All of our Roosevelt Elk heards here in SW Oregon seem to have only one or two bulls and are always surrounded by the females making it exremely hard for good shots. Thanks for sharing!

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