(CN) – The National Park Service plans to shoot a few elk native to California in a park near San Francisco, a move that has angered some environmental groups that accuse the agency of putting cattle ranchers ahead of the needs of preservation.
The federal agency released a draft plan Thursday calling for a restriction of 120 tule elk at Point Reyes National Seashore. The elk have come into conflict with local ranchers who say the animals are grazing on grass meant for their cattle.
The tule elk, numbering less than 6,000, are the smallest elk species in North America and are exclusively found in California.
According to the agency’s draft plan, it estimates it could kill 10 to 15 elk per year. An estimated 124 tule elk live in the park, though their numbers are increasing. About a third of the park, 44 square miles, are used for agriculture.
Jeff Miller, senior conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the proposal will potentially harm other wildlife.
“This is a shockingly anti-wildlife plan, and killing these elk will do nothing to fix or reduce the environmental damage caused by cattle ranching,” Miller said in a statement. “What is the Park Service thinking? Allowing expansion of commercial agricultural activities would inevitably lead to further conflicts with other native wildlife. After the elk shooting starts, get ready for ranchers to call for the slaughter of the park’s bobcats, foxes and birds.”
Park spokeswoman Melanie Gunn said employees would probably kill a few tule elk throughout the year, making sure to kill an even ratio of males and females. The meat from the elk would then be donated to local charities, Gunn said.
The Park Service drafted the proposal as a part of a settlement after wildlife and environmental groups sued the agency in 2016, claiming that it failed to consider the park’s preservation by renewing leases to cattle ranchers.
The draft proposal is open for public comments for 45 days, after which the agency intends to have a final plan set up by the first part of 2020.