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Elk herds in Silicon Valley? Do they carry iPhones?

Tule elk, a subspecies related to Washington State’s Roosevelt elk, are making a comeback in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Tule elk, a subspecies related to Washington State’s Roosevelt elk, are making a comeback in the San Francisco Bay Area. NYT file, 2015

Washington State and the San Francisco Bay Area have a lot in common.

Apples and Apple, check. Eye-popping home prices, check. High possibility of being wiped out by an earthquake, check.

But elk?

Turns out, elk are making a comeback in the Bay Area.

Comeback naturally means they were in the Bay Area to begin with. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates the elk population in the state at around 500,000 before hunting and development nearly wiped them out in the 1800s.

The herds in the Bay Area are Tule elk, a subspecies related to Roosevelt Elk, the type most common to western Washington.

A mature Roosevelt elk bull can weigh up to 1,000 pounds while a Tule elk bull can reach 600 pounds, according to Outdoors International. Tule elk exist only in Central California and thrive in the region’s Mediterranean climate.

In Washington, Roosevelt elk are at home in the soggy river valleys of the Pacific coast and another subspecies, Rocky Mountain elk, can be found on the volcano-shattered landscape of Mount St. Helens.

The Roosevelt range does extend into northern California, but not as far as the Bay Area.

Until recently, seeing elk grazing in the golden hills of the Bay Area would have seemed as likely as spotting Sasquatch.

But now, elk have been spotted near Silicon Valley Blvd. in San Jose and as far south as the hills above Gilroy, according the San Jose Mercury News. Gilroy bills itself as the Garlic Capital of the World.

There are just under 6,000 Tule elk and an equal amount of Roosevelt elk living in California, according to the state’s Fish and Wildlife.

Despite California’s much larger size, its elk population has a long way to go before it catches up to Washington. There are an estimated 5,000 Roosevelt elk in Washington’s Olympic National Park alone.

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

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