California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Threats & Vulnerabilities

McCullough (1969) showed that competition with domestic stock proved to be a minor threat to elk. However, overgrazing or high intensity grazing can leave large areas with no food value for the elk for extended periods of time. Conflicts between ranchers and elk have posed a problem. Elk are an increasingly popular game animal, and management efforts in the last few decades have caused the population to grow. As the numbers increase so does the incidence and intensity of damage to agriculture (deCalesta and Witmer, 1994). Tule elk are an example of genetic bottlenecking. This can lead to minimal variation and can cause the species to become vulnerable to diseases. Modeling of the genetic characteristics of tule elk have indicated that management strategies involving transplants among all tule elk herds appear to be the most beneficial for the maintenance of nuclear variation in this species (Williams, Lundrigan and Rhodes, 2004). Continued human development and encroachment is a threat to tule elk. A large portion of their range is on private property with no permanent protection. In addition, many of the subherds are in close proximity to high value coastal and bay/mountain areas. There is a constant threat of development or subdividing the properties into small ranches. One of the other major threats is habitat degradation and invasive of noxious weeds. Exotic weed species (star thistle) is a large problem for the Cache Creek herd, as it has taken over many acres of otherwise suitable habitat (Hobbs, 2007)