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Harvard Law School’s Animal Law and Policy Clinic filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service this week, accusing the park service of negligence by allowing tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore to die of starvation or dehydration.
Since last year, 152 elk, more than a third of the population, have died, which the lawsuit alleges is due to a fence the park service maintains that prevents the elk from foraging into the south side of their habitat, where the park service leases to private ranchers. Harvard’s Animal Law and Policy Clinic filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and multiple Californians who witnessed emaciated and dead elk at Point Reyes.
“The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect and preserve these beautiful animals. The idea that depriving them of food and water somehow fulfills that responsibility isn’t just absurd, it’s undeniably inhumane,” said Kate Barnekow, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs.
“The National Park Service has a responsibility to protect and preserve these beautiful animals. The idea that depriving them of food and water somehow fulfills that responsibility isn’t just absurd, it’s undeniably inhumane.”Kate Barnekow, attorney
The fence was erected to prevent competition between the elk and cattle animals for food and water, but due to climate change and drought conditions, the elk do not have enough to survive, according to the lawsuit.
Skyler Thomas, a wildlife photographer and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said he has seen as many as 15 emaciated, dead elk.
“I began to imagine what it must be like for the elk in the area who do not have sufficient access to water and food and who are unable to leave Tomales Point to find whatever resources they may need,” Thomas said. “This is absolute and total cruelty.”
The plaintiffs want the National Park Service to revise their general management plan for the portion of Point Reyes National Seashore where elk live, and to ensure that the elk are not deprived of sufficient amounts of food and water.
The National Park Service was not available for comment.