Tule Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore Want to Be Free—Will You Help Them?

Update (August 30, 2023): You may recall the heartbreaking saga of the tule elk, animals native to California who were hunted to near extinction in the late 1800s and later reintroduced to their historic home ranges, including at Point Reyes National Seashore. They were placed on a 2,600-acre “reserve” on a peninsula known as Tomales Point. In 1978, the National Park Service (NPS) erected an 8-foot-tall, 3-mile-long fence in order to prevent the elk from leaving the peninsula and entering the rest of the 71,000 acres—some of which were leased by farmers and ranchers. However, as the herd grew and California faced worsening drought conditions, herd members began dying, apparently due to lack of sustenance within the “reserve.” The problem has become so severe that a whopping 152 elk died on Tomales Point in 2020 alone.

After years of campaigns by PETA and other advocacy groups, the elk may finally receive a reprieve! In a heartening turn of events, the NPS is now taking public comments on a proposed plan that would include removal of the fence confining the Tomales Point elk herd. Now is the time to use your voice to help free the animals from this deadly prison!

Submit Your Comment Now

Please click the button above to access the NPS’ public comment form and urge the agency to remove the fence and allow the elk to roam free. Remind the NPS that cattle grazing decimates ecosystems, contaminates the water supply with fecal bacteria, spreads invasive species and disease, and wastes massive amounts of water.

After you’ve submitted a comment, please share your thoughts on the NPS’ social media pages:


Update (March 31, 2022): The California Coastal Commission (CCC) needs to hear from you today! Last year, it conditionally approved a plan to allow the National Park Service (NPS) to continue leasing a large portion of Point Reyes National Seashore to cattle ranchers. Under this agreement, the NPS was required to establish a plan to address the water quality, climate, and wildlife issues caused by ranching in the area. After the CCC denied a request for an extension, the NPS submitted a plan that was missing crucial elements. Please take action below to urge the CCC to deny the NPS’ inadequate plans.

Update (September 15, 2021): Despite an overwhelming outcry from compassionate individuals and organizations worldwide, on September 13, 2021, the National Park Service (NPS) officially signed into action a general management plan that will involve killing native tule elk at Point Reyes National Seashore. This decision is just another way NPS is bowing to the pressure of ranchers who lease these public lands—one of the three elk herds is already contained by a tall fence to a peninsula, where the animals have reportedly been dying because of drought conditions.

Original post:

Point Reyes National Seashore in California was established in 1962. The government paid $50 million to purchase the land from farming and ranching families, allowing those who signed lease agreements to graze cows on parkland for 25 years.

However, conflict has arisen because three herds of tule elk—who are native to California and were reintroduced to the park in the 1970s after previously having been killed off—also graze there. To appease ranchers, the National Park Service (NPS) erected tall fences to keep elk off grazing land. One herd, designated the Tomales Point herd, is confined by a fence to a peninsula, and drought conditions have resulted in a drastic drop in water and natural food supply for these animals. Activists claim that hundreds of elk died in 2020 because the fences prohibited them from seeking sustenance elsewhere. Now, the NPS is moving forward with an amendment to the park’s General Management Plan that involves killing some elk and offering another 20-year lease agreement to farming and ranching families. More than 26,000 acres would be allotted for ranching, and lessees would be allowed to maintain over 5,500 cows. Meanwhile, the Drakes Beach elk herd’s population, which numbered a mere 124 animals in 2018, would be limited to 120 animals maximum—and the Limantour herd, which numbered 174 animals in 2018, would be “managed consistent with desired conditions for the planning area,” meaning that there would be no limit to how many could be killed! Furthermore, the NPS wants to allow agricultural “diversification,” so the lessees could possibly even bring in pigs, goats, chickens, and sheep and plant row crops. Animal agriculture only serves to exacerbate drought conditions in California. It takes an average of 1,799 gallons of water to produce a pound of cow flesh and 4.5 gallons of water to produce a gallon of cow’s milk. Meanwhile, the same thirsty livestock operations contaminate the water supply with manure (which contains E. coli), hormones, and antibiotics. Evidence indicates that water contamination from the ranches at Point Reyes is a problem, as bacteria levels recently tested at levels up to 300 times higher than the state health standard.

The NPS previously accepted public comments on this matter, and PETA members and supporters weighed in. However, despite hearing from around 40,000 people who asked that the elk be preserved, the NPS pushed forward and recently obtained conditional concurrence from the California Coastal Commission to proceed with this damaging plan.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind