Dozens of Tule elk are now on the Central Coast.
Fish and Wildlife crews transported about 60 Tule Elk from the San Luis Wildlife Refuge near Merced to the Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County.
Experts say the elk were transported because there were too many in the San Luis Wildlife Refuge, and biologists also wanted to introduce more breeding females into the wilderness.
Search teams scouted the elk from the air and released “net guns” over the elk to catch them. The elk were then transported out of the area via helicopter or in a trailer. Afterward, they were taken to a base camp, where a team of biologists, veterinarians, and volunteers conducted tests and gave the elk ear tags for identification.
The animals were then driven about 200 miles to their new location.
California Tule elk were once thought to be extinct, due to gold mining settlers who hunted them as a food source.
However, in the 1870s, a small herd was found on a private cattle ranch and efforts were launched to save the species. The elk were put in a captive environment to promote breeding and reproduction. Now there are two captive herds left: one in Bakersfield, which is a direct descendant of the herd found in the 1870s, and another in the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos.
“Bringing them back from the brink of extinction is considered one of the greatest wildlife stories in the history of this nation,” said Peter Tira, the Public Information Officer for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
There are currently about 6,000 Tule elk in California and 22 herds around the state. Tule elk range from 300 pounds to 800 pounds, depending on their gender and age. They stand four to five-feet tall at their shoulders.
“The elks are breathtaking and they’re a unique piece of California natural history,” said Tira.