Tule Elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes)
The San Luis National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) near Los Banos, California has played a key role in the recovery of the tule elk, a non-migratory elk subspecies found only in California. Prior to the mid-1800's, California was populated with an estimated half-million of this subspecies but by the turn of the 20'th century, only 50 or so years later, they had been driven nearly to extinction due to over-hunting and loss of their natural habitat....by some accounts they were down to a mere 10 to 20 individuals. In 1974 a herd of 18 animals was established here, in a large enclosure, at the San Luis NWR. With elk from this herd periodically relocated to establish new herds throughout California, the statewide tule elk population has now recovered to over 4,000 animals in some 20 herds.
Each spring tule elk shed their old coats for short, sleek, reddish new ones. By October and November this new coat is fully grown and has faded to the light buff color characteristic of tule elk.