Elk In California: Everything You Need To Know About Them

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Amin Tawar

Elk In California
Elk In California: Everything You Need To Know About Them

From bears to mountain lions, California is home to a range of wildlife including elk. These creatures belong to the deer family and are quite a significant addition to the state’s ecosystem. 

This is because of their position at the bottom of the food chain and their role as the prey being fed on by the apex predators. In fact, elks and other herbivores have an adverse effect on the ecosystem as a whole if their population decreases drastically without any control.

It is therefore crucial for us as residents of the state to know more about elk in California. 

So, below I’ve provided details regarding their presence in the state, where you could spot them, and whether you can hunt them as a resident and a non-resident of the state.

Are There Any Elk in California?

Yes, Elk is found throughout the landscapes of California. In fact, California is one of the few states with 3 subspecies of elk living in its habitats. Roosevelt elk, Rocky Mountain elk, and the Tule elk are found in large numbers which only seems to be increasing in the present. 

It is important to note that these elks especially the tule elk were extensively hunted after European colonization due to their size and presence. In fact, in the mid-1800s their population was brought to the brink of extinction. Thanks to the effort of a rancher named Henry Miller who protected the last few standing tule elks, their population has made a comeback in the state. 

How Many Elk Are in California?

As per recent estimates, there are about 12,000 to 15,000 elk in the state. In terms of the subspecies, about 5,500 to 6,000 Tule elk, 1,500 Rocky Mountain elk, and about 5,500 to 6,000 Roosevelt elk occupy the different landscapes of the state. 

While yes, these creatures are important in the ecosystem, their management is equally important. You can’t just let them overpopulate as they can overgraze and destroy many farms and habitats, which is not what we want in the first place.

What Kind Of Elk Are In California?

Elk In California
Elk In California: Everything You Need To Know About Them

California is home to three subspecies of elk namely Roosevelt elk, Rocky Mountain elk, and tule elk. 

While we do know much about the Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain types, Tule elk are endemic to California and are only found here. 

They are the smallest of elk species found in North America and can be easily differentiated from others based not only on size but also on habitat. This is because, unlike the whole elk species that live in temperate climates with heavy covers, the Tule elks prefer to live in open areas under semi-desert conditions.

Also Check Our Guide On Elk In Alaska

Where Can I See Elk in California?

Elks are one such species that are found throughout the state, thanks to the different subspecies found living in diverse landscapes. Some notable areas include Point Reyes National Seashore, Coyote Ridge, Pacheco State Park, Wind Wolves Preserve, San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, Redwood National State Park, and Tule Elk National Reserve which was explicitly established for Tule elk conservation.

Best Time to See Elk in California

We cannot guarantee the best time to see elk as they are wildlife and are typically unpredictable. But there are particular times of the year or day which can improve our chances to view them.

Typically, elk are most active during the rut or mating season which occurs between September to November. During this time, elk will be constantly on the lookout for new females and would make loud noises to establish their territory and protect their cows. 

In addition to this, elk are most active during the cooler time of the day, dawn, and dusk. It is therefore better to visit the elk habitats during these times.

Can You Hunt & Shoot Elk in California?

Yes, And as a state with three subspecies of elk, California is a sought-out spot for elk hunting. The elk population, especially that of Tule elk is expanding by leaps and bounds, and in order to control them, the state has been relocating a few of the Tule elk population to nearby states. And hunting season has also been established as a way to control and conserve elk in the state. 

To hunt an elk in California, you must obtain a hunting license and an elk tag which are provided by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The tag is provided through a lottery system and can be applied for specific hunting seasons. 

Note that, there are bag limits for the number of elks that can be harvested in a year. So, before participating in the selection process, look at the rules and regulations issued by the state DFW.

Can A Non-Resident Hunt Elk In California?

Similar to the process for residents, even non-residents can avail of non-resident hunting licenses from the department. Those who live outside California can obtain licenses like 1 day or 2-day types of licenses. But note that unlike for residents, there is only one elk permit for all three subspecies of elk for non-residents.

Also Check Our Guide On Elk In America


And that was everything you need to know about the Elk In California. I hope this article answered all your queries.

Thank You For Reading!

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