Where did the elk go? Photos and concerns from a local wildlife photographer

Local photographer, Lynne Harrington, has kindly shared some of her amazing photos with us, along with her insights and observations of the majestic elk she captures. After a recent encounter with a flock, Lynn said she had more questions than answers.

I wrote:

I went up to see two of the country’s most beloved and sought-after elk herds in mid-September. The erection seemed to be late. The Rangers said they didn’t know why but the new fences weren’t, the fishermen thought the weather had been hot the previous week. I’ve even seen several satellite bulls resting inside a herd of cows and the harem bull doesn’t seem to mind. The bulls were big but none of them were huge. There was no sparring. Not many situations or alerts have happened yet. Were the larger bulls waiting for the females to come into estrus before showing themselves?

[All photos by Lynn Harrington]


This year I saw more fences. It seems there are more fences or road closures every year. Less access. More overgrown brush along the roads to hide the elk and encourage some people to get closer to meadows or to private lands. More brush stacks the view from the drag locations. These herds in Redwoods Park and the Estes and Rocky Mountain National herds in Colorado are the most accessible in the West.

Will elk always be accessible “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” and available to future generations? Or will they be administered more and more on private lands and chased public lands where they will be shy?

Any great picture of an elk you see on the Internet or in books may be from a regular herd. All but one of the photos on this page were taken on private land.

Lynn worries that the elk’s favored weeds are being eliminated by other animals no better than large mammals in public, reducing opportunities for public viewing. continued:

Informally, a park employee who was very familiar with the local elk said that the weeds they liked in the meadows were overgrown with weeds, trees, and plants they didn’t want to eat, and so they spent less and less time in the meadows. These promoters over the years.

… I see them more and more on private lands. At least one herd broke up and went straight to the town of Orik – often jumping straight into people’s backyards. While this is probably mostly a response to a growing population, there appears to be little grazing and foraging on the park grounds.

While some private landowners protect elk in these herds, others do not. I have nothing against hunting, but it would be good to keep the larger bulls in these particular herds for the public to enjoy. Even the hunters I spoke to agree that there is not much sport in hunting these very familiar animals.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people weep or about to cry while watching the herds of elk. How amazing have I heard. The locals … bring their children to these meadows to see and learn about these beautiful and powerful animals that define this environment. Tourists from the Bay Area, Asia, Europe and beyond stop by to enjoy them every year. For city dwellers, there is no other practical opportunity to see an elk other than these herds. There is even a local guide who specializes in elk tours.

Lynn’s encounter with her raised questions about the future of the local elk herds and whether the key lies in the herbs they eat. It also questions how parks can manage meadows in favor of elk, creating better public viewing options for majestic herds.

Adding to the growing concerns is foot rot, tularemia-associated hoof disease (TAHD) that has now been discovered in California. For more information about TAHD, click over here.

For more amazing photos of Lynn, visit Sernendipity 123 Photography (smugmug.com)


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