(EnviroNews World News) — PETITION WATCH: ForElk.org has created a petition at change.org to get three people fired for negligence in their work at Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) where the largest herd of tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) was decimated over the summer of 2020. The Tomales Point population of elk, which live behind an 8-foot-tall fence, went from 445 animals to 293. The National Park Service (NPS) says there’s no cause for concern.
“The decline in the number of elk at Tomales Point this year and in the past, along with subsequent increases, are within normal and predicted population fluctuations,” wrote the NPS in a press release.
ForElk.org disagrees. They warned the NPS about the dangerous conditions the elk were facing during the summer.
“We had seen red flags earlier in the summer during the height of the drought. We saw irregular behavior of elk, we documented 18 dead elk, and we saw dried up water sources,” said Diana Oppenheim of forELK.org. “After sharing this with Dave Press and Melanie Gunn at the Park Service, they dismissed the information, spread misinformation, and refused to take any action.”
The deaths have been attributed to drought though the NPS hedged its conclusions saying:
Although the NPS and CDFW (California Department of Fish and Wildlife) believe the elk population declines are drought-related, there is no evidence that the population decline is due to dehydration and a lack of water. Park staff mapped water sources and monitored water conditions at Tomales Point on a regular basis from July to November, confirming adequate water supplies are available for the elk in the many creeks, seeps, and springs distributed throughout the reserve. Conversely, the nutritional quality of forage is exacerbated by ongoing drought conditions.
The NPS employees under the gun are Lead Ecologist Dave Press, Outreach Coordinator Melanie Gunn and Acting Chief of Natural Resource Division Brannon Ketcham. The petition alleges:
These people have been actively ignoring evidence and information that could have saved this herd of elk. They have purposefully created greenwashing tactics to hide and confuse relevant information to the public about how they manage the elk population. It was under their care and guidance that 152 elk died preventable deaths. We see this as negligence of their duty: To protect wildlife within the park.
The fence was built to protect the interest of two dozen private beef and dairy companies that occupy 30 percent of the Point Reyes. Environmental groups are saying that fence is part of the problem and that the beef and dairy operations need to vacate the park.
There are three herds of Tule Elk at Point Reyes. While the fenced in population declined dramatically, the two free-roaming herds also saw changes in their numbers. The Limantour herd fell from 164 individuals to 155, but the Drakes Beach herd “stabilized and increased” from 138 animals to 139. Tule Elk are indigenous to California and are not found anywhere else in the world. They are North America’s smallest species of elk.
As of April 10, the petition had 876 signers. It Is addressed to Superintendent Craig Kenkel and NPS Acting Regional Director Linda Walker.
Readers may visit and interact with the original petition on Change.org at this link: https://www.change.org/p/superintendent-craig-kenkel-point-reyes-accountability-fire-dave-press-melanie-gunn-brannon-ketcham-from-the-park-service?fbclid=IwAR21jTtX-Qsn_aRTShR-X4efD2ZVSTMHvRKnEo5eqM4LtGgF5a_3K2YzSDU&use_react=false
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