Environment & Science

California's elk are back. Now, the state needs to figure out what to do with them

More than 250 tule elk died inside a fenced area at a Northern California seashore during a two-year period, and a lack of water is possibly the cause.
More than 250 tule elk died inside a fenced area at a Northern California seashore during a two-year period, and a lack of water is possibly the cause.
Photo by David McSpadden via Flickr Creative Commons

California's elk population is on the rebound after decades of over-hunting and loss of their natural habitat.

Over the past four decades, their numbers have gone from 3,500 to 13,000. Now, state officials are working on a plan to manage the animals.

"Some people love elk, want elk all over the place, completely populated. Other people don't like elk. And elk being elk they can break fences, they can have conflicts with humans, be it agricultural conflicts, eating crops, eating grass," says Joe Hobbs, the statewide elk coordinator for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

According to the plan, some herds may need to be reduced to bring them into better balance with the ecosystems and prevent damage to ranch fencing.

Other herds may need to expand through the introduction of new elk in order to boost genetic diversity and resiliency.

The public comment can comment on the proposed plan through the end of January.