Are Elk Native to Texas–Historical and Archaeological Evidence for the Natural Occurence of Elk in Texas

This paper 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.

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.

Given the declared intention to continue attacks on this native species by TPWD—the very state agency tasked with protecting Texas’ wildlife—it is past time for the Texas Bighorn Society, the Texas Wildlife Association, the Borderlands Research Institute (domiciled in the same university that has published this peer-reviewed paper) and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to speak up for far-West Texas elk. Collectively and individually, these groups should insist elk be managed according to the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, which each entity pledged to follow. Current elk policy violates six of the model’s seven tenets.

Protectors of wildlife – especially elk – are indebted to Dr. Richardson Gill, without whose scholarship, technical analysis, and stubborn persistence in the face of institutional resistance, these historic and scientific facts about Texas’ elk would not have seen the light of academic publication.

NOTE: This paper is being used with permission of the Journal of Big Bend Studies and Sul Ross State University.  We thank the University, the Journal, and especially its Director, Andy Cloud, for publishing the paper and granting us permission to post it.  The specific attribution is:

Gill, Richardson B., Christopher Gill, Reeda Peel, and Javier Vásquez
2016 Are Elk Native to Texas? Historical and Archaeological Evidence for the Natural Occurence of Elk in Texas. Journal of Big Bend Studies. Alpine, TX: Center for Big Bend Studies, Sul Ross State University.


Posted by Chris Gill

Ranching, wildlife management, finance, oil & gas, real estate development and management.

  1. As someone who grew up in SE New Mexico, I hunted, hiked and camped all over the Guadalupes, Organs, Roblados, and White Mountains. I always found it odd that muleys and elk were rare just over the Texas state line. It seemed obvious that this was from lack of habitat stemming from private ranches and no reintroduction/management at the end of the market hunting days. The claim that SW Texas isn’t natural and historical elk habitat is absurd. The state line doesn’t hold mystical powers preventing elk from crossing it. All I can think is follow the money. Who is benefitting from the current policies and wants them to remain?


    1. Dear Matt,

      Yes it goes against all common sense.

      Everywhere we look we see agencies harming the objectives for which they were created. Consider health care, education, border control, trade relations, food safety, which agency tasked with these responsibilities does a good job? In this context, why should NPS, F&WS, BLM be different, and why should TPWD’s elk policy come as a surprise?

      And yet most voters trust the agencies, and are scared stiff of speaking out against them. An inattentive and gullible public has allowed this and only the public, starting with people like you and me can change it. So please speak up and get others to do so as well.

      Thanks for writing.


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