This video on the restoration of elk in Kentucky and other Eastern states begins, “There is perhaps no higher calling for a wildlife conservation organization than restoring extirpated wildlife species back to their historic ranges.” How true, except in Texas, where our state game department with the support or acquiescence of major conservation organizations, removes all elk – a Texas native species – from all far-West Texas lands it manages, under the scientifically bogus theory that elk ‘compete’ with and thereby harm desert bighorn sheep, mule deer and pronghorn.
NOTE: this post was originally published on May 21, 2018
I remember having read about rock paintings depicting elk, and I think it was in one of your posts. That would be evidence that elk do in fact belong in Texas.
Thank you for sharing and keeping this in the news.
There remains no reasonable doubt that elk are native. Here are papers on this. The first is a peer-reviewed simplification of the second paper. The conclusions of both are identical.
Peer-reviewed paper, Journal of Big Bend Studies: https://pitchstonewaters.com/are-elk-native-to-texas-historical-and-archaeological-evidence-for-the-natural-occurence-of-elk-in-texas/
The complete detail on which the Journal of Big Bend Studies paper was based: https://pitchstonewaters.com/are-elk-native-to-texas-yes/
These papers began as an effort to persuade Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to cease its efforts to eradicate elk on the state lands which it manages in far-West Texas. Our assumption was that TPWD was acting out of a sincere misunderstanding of science, which could be corrected.
TPWD agrees, but now – as of October 2017 – TPWD says that even though elk are native, they are “invasive”, thus, its eradications will continue. These are not mandated by law. They are followed pursuant to TPWD’s internal policy and its internal agendas: science regarding whether or not elk are native Texas animals has nothing to do with either.
Thanks for writing.
James Davis wrote this in the blog’s “feedback” section. I have posted it with his permission:
My search for why we are not restoring elk to Texas brought me to your research and website. As an avid Texas elk hunter—for over 35 years—I watch as other states get their help in restoring elk. A large part of that is done by Texas hunters through our memberships in Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). Can we as a group find a way to get things done here in Texas? I am willing to help.
I also have a grizzly bear fight story for you if we get the chance.
To which I responded:
Let me start by saying that Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has done many wonderful things for elk and elk hunters, but here is the ‘rest of the story’ where RMEF and Texas’ elk are concerned. Advancing private lands hunting—a property rights issue—and calling out agencies to benefit private owners is not what RMEF does. RMEF is public-lands oriented for the simple reason that most Western lands are public.
Its efforts have been to expand public hunting on public lands. Good relations with agencies are essential to this. Expanding public access and hunting has also put it in conflict with private landowners over access. Texas is a private property state. State and federal public lands that elk inhabit in far-West Texas are state and national parks, and wildlife management areas. All these are closed to public hunting. Private landowners are the financial beneficiaries of elk recovery. In order to support Texas’s elk, RMEF would need to openly disagree with agencies starting with TPWD, and make a basic shift towards private landowners.
RMEF sidesteps the Texas elk restoration issue by saying that they will support Texas’ elk if: (1) the state ever changes the law which says that elk are “exotic” and (2) TPWD ever changes its policy to eradicate all elk on state-managed lands, based on this law. I have that in writing from RMEF’s president.
This is a cop-out. The Texas law, and TPWD’s policy will not change without advocacy from wildlife conservation groups starting with RMEF. Everybody knows “exotic” and “invasive” are scientifically-bogus elk indictments. But they won’t speak up.
RMEF’s single largest contingent and funding source is Texas’ elk supporters. RMEF’s Texans are being used as a cash cow by a bureaucracy which is integrated with the federal and state agencies, with whom they will not break ranks. Our universities, so-called wildlife conservation organizations and wildlife agencies are also in some version of this: hunkered down in the tall grass instead of speaking up for Texas’ elk. Obviously, as I have explained, they have reasons they consider sufficient for doing this, but as to the elk themselves, their internal agendas lead to positions and outcomes contrary to their stated purposes.
Texas members of RMEF could insist on elk advocacy from RMEF. I do what I can with research and the blog. But, others like you must join me in speaking for native Texas elk that cannot speak for themselves. But RMEF local Texas chapter leaders are excluded from advancement and denied support if they take on the central leadership’s position.
In summary, everyone knows it’s wrong; most everyone is afraid to say so.
Thanks for writing.