California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Ecological Role

Like any other creature elk require food, water, and cover. McCullough (1969) found that annual forbs are extremely important in spring and early summer. Annual and perennial grasses are eaten by tule elk throughout the year. Sedges are also eaten (Thomas and Toweill, 1982). Water must be available for drinking by tule elk; groups of tule elk are usually located within four miles of an open water source (Hobbs, 2007). Cover is important to tule elk, primarily for calving. In the La Panza herd elk are usually found out in the open even on the hottest days. While elk in the Cache Creek herd are observed lying down in the shade of oak trees on a regular basis (Hobbs, 2007).

Tule elk are large animals and hence require a good deal of space. But the amount of space required seems to be dependent on the quality of habitat they occupy. Elk on Grizzly Island occupy a relatively small area (less than 8,000 acres) for most of their activities even though they have tens of thousands of more acres available to them. Information gathered from the Department of Fish and Games hunting program indicate that elk on Grizzly Island are the heaviest and healthiest elk herd in the state. While movement patterns from Global Positioning Systems (GPS) collars on Cache Creek show much more extensive use of available areas. Elk at Cache Creek sometimes travel up to 15 miles or more throughout the year to obtain the resources they need (Hobbs, 2007).