Ensuring that new elk hunting regulations in Alameda
County are based on sound management and are adequately protective of
the declining Sunol tule elk herd
Should Sunol's tule elk herd be hunted? The Department of Fish and Game thinks so, but has no scientific basis for the hunt. In spring of 2010 the California Fish and Game Commission approved several new hunt zones for tule elk, which have rebounded from near-extinction in California, but are still at low numbers in Alameda County. The Commission created a new Alameda County hunt zone which puts one Sunol bull tule elk in hunters' gun sights each year.
Tule elk from a herd reintroduced to Santa Clara County moved to Mt. Hamilton and San Antonio Reservoir by 1980. The Sunol herd had 21 elk in 1984 and the population peaked at about 70 elk in 1995. Poaching of the Sunol herd has been a problem. The Sunol herd has declined since the 1990s and was surveyed at 58 elk in 2005. The state's new Alameda hunt zone provides one bull elk tag for hunting on private lands targeting the Sunol herd and elk in Corral Hollow. An additional new hunt zone allows shooting one bull elk annually from the Mt. Hamilton herd.
Questions about impacts on the Sunol herd population dynamics were not asked or answered in the state's shoddy environmental review for the new hunting regulations. Local conservation groups and the non-hunting public in Alameda County were not notified or engaged about the new hunt nor did Fish and Game make public any elk population numbers for Alameda County, despite our requests. There is no evidence the Sunol herd has adequate numbers to support regular "harvest" of primary bulls, which are responsible for more than 80% of the herds breeding. The hunt occurs during the elk mating season, which could disrupt breeding success.
The Alameda Creek Alliance is not an anti-hunting organization, nor do we have an anti-hunting agenda; but we are opposed to trophy hunting, misguided predator control programs and hunting of native wildlife with low population numbers. Our concern is with maintaining a healthy population of tule elk in the watershed. The declining Sunol elk herd is a public resource for everyone to enjoy, not just a few hunters to get the "thrill" of shooting a large bull elk or a few landowners to enrich themselves. We've asked the CA Fish & Game Commission to suspend the Alameda elk hunt until the local elk population is stable and increasing.
2014 update: The state seems to have quietly dropped (or just stopped reporting on) the Alameda tule elk hunt. The state web site shows that 28 hunters applied for an Alameda elk tag in 2010, but none reported shooting a bull elk. The Alameda hunt is not listed on 2011-2013 harvest statistics.