Amazing (and Grisly) Wildlife Day at Orick Mill Site

Warning: this topic is gruesome, and awesome.

Last week, Land Project Manager Christine Aralia and I walked the Orick Mill Site with Texas State researcher Butch Weckerly. Butch has studied the Roosevelt elk in Redwood National and State Parks since 1997, witnessing local extinctions and population explosions of the elk over the years.

The League is helping the Orick Mill Site be returned to nature. Photo by Paolo Vescia
The League is returning the Orick Mill Site to a more natural state. Photo by Paolo Vescia

We walked onto the mill site to figure how we can incorporate adaptation management for elk into the vision for the property, and immediately found a freshly killed elk that had been taken down by a mountain lion. The stomach had been removed by the predator and there were clear signs of how the animal died — both the windpipe was ripped out and the nose was torn, because mountain lions clamp down on the nose of their prey to quickly suffocate it. Click to view image of the kill.

As dusk approached, we kept a watchful eye on the carcass in hopes the mountain lion returned to its kill. It didn’t, but three black bears wandered out of the forest in the last light of the day and gnawed on the elk.

Though some may find it hard to stomach, this is a good sign of natural wildlife activity, with top predators helping to sustain a healthy food web. Usually these interactions go on behind the scenes, but this amazing, up-close-and-personal wildlife day in Orick reminds us how important our work is to further restore this old mill site so it becomes even better habitat for north coast wildlife.


About the author

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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One Response to “Amazing (and Grisly) Wildlife Day at Orick Mill Site”

  1. Eric Nelson

    Emily, just now reading your posts and really enjoying them–in particular, this one on my birthday. Some 30 years ago, inspired by a 1964 National Geographic Article, a friend and I packed into the Tall Trees Grove via Orick along Redwood Creek. Remains a wonderful memory among the pitch-black forest, when, in the middle of the night, a huge crashing sound came through the underbrush. Amidst visions of Bigfoot, we have always assumed it had to have been a Roosevelt Elk but was far too dark to tell anything more. Have wanted to do that trip again for years now—just a little bit out of range for me but someday… Anyhow, looking forward to catching up with all of your prior posts


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