Natural Sightings #564 - Bull Elk on Golf Course.JPG

Susie Wright took this photo of five bull elk grazing on the golf course at Oak Tree Country Club in Bear Valley Springs.

Susie Wright took this photo of five bull elk grazing on the golf course at Oak Tree Country Club in Bear Valley Springs.

These American Elk, also known as Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) have become a familiar sight in the nearly 50 years since they were first brought to the Tehachapi Mountains from around Yellowstone National Park.

A different subspieces of elk known as Tule Elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) was native to the Tehachapi Mountains and other parts of the state — there were an estimated 500,000 Tule Elk in California prior to the arrival of the Spanish.

Excessive hunting and habitat loss decimated them and by 1873 they were believed to be extinct. However, a game warden named A.C. Tibbett found a single bull and cow near Buena Vista Lake in 1874, and property owner and cattle baron Henry Miller ordered them protected. These two animals, and possibly a third that wasn't detected, are the ancestors of the more than 4,000 Tule Elk that exist in California today.

Tule Elk were reintroduced onto the Wind Wolves Preserve, a 93,000-acre wildlife sanctuary about 60 miles southwest of Tehachapi, and from those original 19 animals there more than 300 living at Wind Wolves today, so there are once again Tule Elk living in the Tehachapi Mountains.

Tule Elk are considered the smallest subspecies of elk, but some biologists believe that their smaller size was in response to poor forage conditions where many of them lived, and there are now Tule Elk bulls on Grizzly Island in Suisun Bay that can weigh up to 900 pounds.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) name for elk is parahui, pronounced pah-rah-HOO-ee, which measn "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.

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