Round Valley educator and photographer Kenneth Tinkham recently captured a series of striking images of one of the the valley’s most iconic creatures, the Tule elk.
According to information offered on the Mendocino National Forest Website, the Tule elk “is one of the largest land mammals native to California.” The Tule elk drew the attention of early European explorers with journals and diaries from the time indicating upwards of half a million Tule elk inhabited the state, the website explains.
California’s Tule Elk population was nearly wiped out after the 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill which brought increased human population, market hunters, and competition with livestock and agricultural farming. According to the Mendocino National Forest website, by the late 1860s “Tule elk were exterminated from all but one small locale in the southern San Joaquin Valley.” In 1976, the United States Congress passed a law that required federal lands be set aside for the species and subsequently the Tule Elk Interagency Task Force was established which “prepared an aggressive re-introduction program.”
In March 2020, California Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted an aerial survey of Mendocino County monitoring the existing populations of Tule elk focusing on five separate areas: Potter Valley, Willits, Eden Valley, Laytonville/Sherwood Valley, and Covelo. The minimum count was a total of 536 elk including 96 bulls (adult males), 4 calves, and 436 adults females/juveniles.
Surveyors sighted a total of 80 Tule elk in Covelo including 15 branch antlered adult males, four spike-antlered males, and 61 adult females.
If you appreciate Tinkham’s photography of Mendocino County’s wildlife, please consider following him on Facebook or Instagram and donating to his PayPal via his email Kennethtinkhamphotos@gmail.com.