Finding life-sustaining water can be a challenge for the tule elk that live in southern California.
This 70-year-old pond is one of few wildlife water sources and the only pond within ten miles on the 35,594-acre Carrizo (cah-REE’-zoh) Plains Ecological Reserve that stretches into the Caliente Range approximately 35 miles north of Santa Barbara.
It captures water overflowing from an 80,000-gallon cistern originally part of an historic cattle feedlot operation that’s no longer in business.
Due to years of deferred maintenance, it was eroding and in poor condition.
So the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Chimineas (chi-mih-NAYZ’) Ranch Foundation to do something about it.
Crews mapped out old water pipelines and then used heavy machinery to rebuild the berm. They also created a vernal pool, or seasonal wetland, that holds runoff from the pond some 200 yards below the berm.
Now the upgraded pond holds 15,000 gallons of water that benefit the Chimineas tule elk herd which plays an important role in conservation of the species as a whole. It also benefits birds and other wildlife species.
This latest habitat enhancement project is one of eight on the reserve funded by RMEF, dating back to the year 2000.
Additionally, RMEF volunteers introduce hunting to scores of youth and their families by hosting the Chimineas Ranch junior apprentice elk hunt held every year since 2008.
Restoring elk country is core to RMEF’s Managed Lands Initiative.
Since 1984, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and its partners completed more than 12,400 conservation and hunting heritage projects that protected or enhanced more than 7.9 million acres of wildlife habitat.