Natural Sightings #607 - Bull Elk in Snow.jpg

David Emenheiser took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of an American Elk bull in the snow.

These massive members of the deer family have little problem with our not-too-severe Southern California mountain winters. Areas like the Rocky Mountains, where even in the valleys snow can fall deep and heavy and last for months, can pose real survival challenges for elk.

But in the Tehachapis, where a group of 400 elk were brought in from the Yellowstone area around 1966, snow is an occasional winter time visitor, and the elk can forage throughout the colder months.

Known as both American Elk and Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni), this species is somewhat larger than the Tule Elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) that historically occupied the San Joaquin Valley and Tehachapi Mountains.

Tule Elk were driven to the very brink of extinction, with only a single male and female remaining by 1874 near Buena Vista Lake, on land owned by ranch magnate Henry Miller.

Ordered by Miller to be protected on his property, the elk slowly increased in number. There are now estimated to be approximately 5,000 Tule Elk in California. A successful herd of about 300 now lives at the 93,000-acre Wind Wolves Preserve, so the Tule Elk have returned to the Tehachapi Mountains.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) Indian word for elk is parahui, pronounced pah-rah-HOO-ee, and it means "water deer," since they like to spend time near or even in water.

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.

Recommended for you