United States of America
PROCEEDINGS AND DEBATES OF THE 91st CONGRESS, FIRST SESSION
WASHINGTON, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1969
S. 3028-INTRODUCTION OF A BILL ON A TULE ELK WILDLIFE REFUGE
Mr. CRANSTON. Mr. President, I introduce, for appropriate reference, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility of a national wildlife life refuge in the Western United States for the preservation of the California tule elk.
Among the many rare and endangered species listed by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife is the tule elk or dwarf elk. The Bureau's brief summary of the elk's current status is a good outline, and I ask unanimous consent that it be printed at this point in the Record.
There being no objection, the summary was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
Summary on Tule Elk by The Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife
Tule elk or dwarf elk: Order, Artiodactyla; Cervus nannodes, Merriam; family, Cervidae.
Distinguishing characteristics: Slightly smaller, paler, and with more narrow rump-patch than Rocky Mountain elk.
Present distribution: Three scattered herds in California; two of these—one in the Cache Creek area (Colusa, Lake and Yolo Counties) and one in Owens Valley (Inyo County)— are free-roaming. The third herd is fenced in the Tule Elk State Park near Tupman (Kern County).
Former distribution: Common prior to 1860 in nearly the entire San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, California (Butte to Kern Counties); restricted to the Buttonwillow Ranch, western Kern County by 1905; total in 1932, 170.
Status: Rare. Restricted in range, reduced in numbers.
Estimated numbers: In the wild, 1964, about 300 in Owens Valley, Inyo County, and about 80 in the Cache Creek area Yolo County.
Breeding rate in the wild: One (rarely two) calves per cow annually. Gestation period approximately 250 days.
Reasons for decline: Hunted for meat and hides during Gold Rush of mid-1800's; total population about 28 in 1885; encroachment of civilization and cultivation have reduced available range, and cattlemen and farmers claim competition with stock and damage to crops.
Protective measures already taken: Herds are carefully managed and protected from indiscriminate hunting by State law; establishment of Tule Elk State Park; organization of the Committee for the Preservation of the Tule Elk, dedicated to the protection of this species. Livestock grazing on portion of Inyo National Forest used by Goodale segment of Owens Valley herd restricted since 1965.
Measures proposed: The Committee for the Preservation of the Tule Elk is attempting to set aside 240 square miles in Owens Valley (owned by the City of Los Angeles, but leased to cattlemen) as a refuge; initiate studies to determine the optimum numbers of elk that a given habitat can support.
Number in captivity: In semi-domestic state, in 1964, are 35 on the Tule Elk Reserve, Kern County. In addition, 5 males and 5 females are in 3 American zoos.
Breeding potential in captivity: Good.
Remarks: Transplants to Sequoia National Park (1904), Yosemite Valley, Monterey County, the Alvord Ranch, Harney County, Oregon, were abandoned because of low calving percentages. Transplant to Owens Valley (1933) succeeded. Today supplemental feeding of hay pellets is necessary on the Tule Elk Reserve, and 10 or 15 are shot yearly to guard against overpopulation; since 1943. In the Owens Valley, legal hunting has cropped the surplus over 300, regarded as the maximum the range can support. In the Owens Valley range, an adjudication of livestock numbers by the Bureau of Land Management (U.S. Dept. of the Interior) will be completed in 1965, which should result in lessened livestock on the elk range. The Cache Creek herd, while low in numbers, periodically causes depredation on several large ranches within its range.
Allen. G. M. 1942: 273-275.
Amaral, Anthony A., 1964. Struggle in Owens Valley. Amer. Forests, 70 (8): 26-27, 53-55.
Hall & Kelson, 1959: vol. 2, p. 1008.
Rintoul, William T., 1964. Last of the ghost herd. Westways, 56 (1): 8-9. January.
Mr. CRANSTON. Mr. President, It should be obvious why there is controversy associated with the tule elk. With less than 400 animals alive today, numerous conservationists, particularly including the Committee for the Preservation of the Tule Elk, believe that it is dangerously unrealistic for the California Fish and Game Commission to allow 20 percent of the Owens Valley wild herd to be killed in an annual authorized hunt. While the tule elk is protected under California State law, annual hunts have been permitted during the past few years to keep the Owens Valley herd within the range limit of 250.
Others, including some responsible Government officials, point to the tule elk's amazing survival record. From a minimum of 28 animals in 1885, the species has grown to its present size. Given this remarkable resurgence, it is difficult to criticize the classification of the tule elk as not endangered, but only rare.
The fact remains that an animal can become extinct only once. No theory about an animal's tenacity can excuse our failure to plan for the long-range preservation and propagation of a rare animal.
The key to the tule elk's preservation is obviously range. The purpose of my bill is to investigate the possibilities of other suitable range areas where one or more new herds might be established. At present, with only one existing herd, an epidemic might easily end the species overnight. There is much vacant land in the West, and I am asking to know whether any of it is suitable for tule elk conservation.
In mentioning only the tule elk in the bill itself, it is not my intention to preclude other uses for the wildlife refuge. However, normally wildlife refuges preserve a habitat where the protected animals are indigenous. Since this will not be the case in the areas to be considered, I believe the thrust of the study must be to seek out lands where the tule elk can adapt and survive.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The bill will be received and appropriately referred.
The bill (S. 3028) to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the desirability of establishing a national wildlife refuge in California and/or adjacent Western States for the preservation of the California tule elk, introduced by Mr. Cranston, was received, read twice by its title and referred to the Committee on Commerce.
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