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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yet Another Reason to Go to Point Reyes -- Elk Porn

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2012 at 11:39 AM

GEORGE GENTRY/U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
  • George Gentry/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

There are lots of reasons to head to Point Reyes this summer and hike the full 9.2 miles to Tomales Point. But the best one?

The elk are mating.

Drive to Pierce Point Ranch parking lot and hit the trail. Within a mile, you'll likely see an eager Parks Department guide at the trailhead and Windy Gap. They'll offer you a row of binoculars and a lot of firsthand information on herd mating ... which can get a little weird. You can head back to the parking lot, or hike further onto the relatively flat trail, where you won't require further assistance. Large groups of roaming elk can be spotted a mere 20 feet away.

The Tule Elk is both voyeur and voyee.
  • The Tule Elk is both voyeur and voyee.

If you're lucky, you'll catch their "mating dance," which is a ridiculously pacifistic way to describe the epic battles that ensue. Swelled necks and humps are just the first indicator. When the antlers hit and harems of females are being rounded up, you know it's getting serious. You can try covering your eyes, but you'll also have to cover your ears and run both fast and far: elk bugling is practically inescapable. The high-pitched honks can be heard from miles away.

Only 9.2 more miles to Tomales Point.
  • Only 9.2 more miles to Tomales Point.

The constant rutting is good news for a species that was nearly obliterated during the Civil War era. A California rancher named Henry Miller discovered the last of the elk in his tule marshes, and steadfastly protected them from poachers.

After you've tired of being a voyeur, Point Reyes offers plenty of other things to do, and most of them are tasty. Reserve a picnic table at Tomales Bay Oyster Farm, or head over to the Cowgirl Creamery.

Point Reyes is located 30 miles north of San Francisco. There is no entrance or parking fees. The Tule Elk will be getting busy from July to October.

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.
Follow Alexis Coe on twitter @alexis_coe.
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Alexis Coe

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