Tule elk have the most restricted range of the three species of North America elk - they are found only in California. Historically, as many as 500,000 Tule elk inhabited the oak-grasslands of California. The discovery of gold in 1848 had a profound effect on Tule elk both in terms of the direct reduction of animals and habitat destruction. By the late 1860s, they had been extirpated from all but a single locality. The remaining animals were protected, and through relocation populations were re-established in three areas.
During the 1960s, several hunts were authorized to reduce Tule elk numbers where they were causing crop damage. Then in 1971 the Committee for the Preservation of Tule Elk was successful in stopping all hunting until the population reached 2,000 animals and several new herds were established. Between 1971 and 1988 Tule elk hunting was prohibited. In 1989 the first hunt in recent times was authorized. It's now an annual event with about 130 tags (35 percent are for bulls) awarded by lottery and three sold at auction. Lottery tags are available to residents only, while the auction tags in 2000 were sold to all comers........(continued)