Natural Sightings

An American Elk bull grazes among the California poppies off Cumberland Road.

David Emenheiser took this photo of an American Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) bull grazing among the California poppies off Cumberland Road in Bear Valley Springs. A handsome bull elk, antlers in velvet, standing in wildflowers — it's harder to think of a more attractive spring sight in the Tehachapi Mountains.

The elk found in the Tehachapi Mountains today are descended from a group of approximately 400 Rocky Mountain elk that were purchased in the Yellowstone area by the Ellsworth Ranch (which was later developed into Stallion Springs) and brought to Tehachapi in the mid-1960s, where they were placed inside a one square-mile (640-acre) enclosure.

Some of the elk died during the shipping process and some in the years that followed. The herd was down to perhaps 200 animals by about 1967, when a wind storm toppled a huge Valley Oak tree that fell onto the tall fence that surrounded the elk, creating an opening.

Most of the surviving elk then left the enclosure, which was later dismantled. In the ensuing 50 years, the elk have spread to different parts of the Tehachapi Mountains, and they have become firmly established in Stallion Springs, Bear Valley Springs, the Tejon Ranch, and other areas.

The elk are cherished by local residents, and the small bachelor herds that form in the summer can often be seen leisurely grazing or lying down in meadows and grassy areas.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for elk is parahui, pronounced pa-ra-HOO-ee, and means "water deer."

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.