For hundreds of years, grizzly bears have roamed California from the far north to what’s now the Mexican border.
Usually standing 8 toes tall, weighing a thousand kilos or extra, they have been golden brown, with a pronounced shoulder hump, and sometimes lived 20 to 30 years. It’s estimated that there have been 10,000 within the state within the early nineteenth century.
For Teddy Roosevelt, the grizzly was a “nice shaggy mountain king,” as he wrote within the Los Angeles Occasions in 1892. For California’s first cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers, grizzlies have been a persistent menace to livestock. To the natives, they have been typically seen with non secular reverence.
Above all, bears have been a logo of a wild, untamed nature, which some Californians admired and others sought to beat.
And so they conquered they did. Lower than 75 years after statehood, the California grizzly, thought-about a menace to westward enlargement and human settlement, was gone: hunted, trapped, poisoned, shot.
The final recorded killing of a wild grizzly in California was in August 1922, in all probability in Tulare or Fresno County within the Southern Sierra. It has been 100 years this month.
One other grizzly was noticed a few years later close to Sequoia Nationwide Park earlier than departing. That was the final seen within the state.
As we speak, the Decrease 48 grizzlies are confined to Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Their inhabitants dropped from 50,000 to about 1,500 earlier than being declared endangered in 1975. They’re now about 2,000.
Of their heyday in California, grizzlies – Ursus arctos horribilis – roamed freely by means of the Santa Monica Mountains and Sierra Nevada, alongside the Santa Barbara coast, and all through the state. Regardless of their repute as ferocious predators, which they actually might be, they have been usually “frugivores and insectivores,” as Roosevelt put it within the Occasions. They have been in search of bugs, berries and fruit. In addition they ate river fish and looked for whale carcasses on the coast.
And, sure, they have been keen on cattle once they may get their paws on them.
For Allen Kelly, who wrote a basic 1903 guide on the topic, the grizzly bears “a far worse repute than it deserves, as an excuse for its persecution and justification for its killers.”
As we speak, it appears unusual and insulting that the bear would not simply adorn the state flag – California regulation says it have to be “a brown grizzly bear strolling to the left with all 4 legs on a patch of inexperienced grass, with the top and eyes barely turned in direction of the observer “- however it is usually the official state animal. This was authorised by the legislator and the governor in 1953.
In different phrases, the state elevated the California grizzly to a spot of honor simply three a long time after it utterly wiped it out. After tormenting the animals with bull-bear fights, snare them, caged, exhibited, hunted and poisoned, the state assigned the grizzly the identical place of symbolic distinction it gave the California sequoia, designated the tree of the state.
Typically one has to marvel at human beings’ audacity, tolerance for irony, and cognitive dissonance.
In 2014, the Heart for Organic Range requested the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to designate new grizzly restoration areas in California and to think about reintroducing bears to the California ecosystem.
The company rejected the petition, however a court docket enchantment is pending. It will imply bringing grizzlies from different elements, like Montana, and attempting to construct a sustainable inhabitants right here.
Unsurprisingly, it is a very controversial concept: to convey again a wild animal that’s the topic of such scary recollections to a state with 39 million individuals, 10 occasions the inhabitants in 1922.
“Grizzlies are extremely majestic and galvanizing animals,” mentioned Noah Greenwald, the director of endangered species on the Heart for Organic Range. “Reintroducing them would appropriate a historic unsuitable”.
Greenwald notes that in lots of European nations (and in much less populated elements of the western United States) bears, or the like, reside in comparatively shut contact with individuals and battle may be very restricted.
What’s unsuitable with finding out what it will take to ascertain a inhabitants and perceive the place bears would possibly come from and what is likely to be affordable reintroduction websites?
“General, I believe individuals actually love bears,” Alagona mentioned. “They’re the closest factor to people in our a part of the world the place different primates do not exist.”
Sadly, we now have a enjoyable solution to present it.
Nicholas Goldberg is an affiliate editor and Op-Ed columnist for the Los Angeles Occasions. © 2022 Los Angeles Occasions. Distributed by Tribune Content material Company.