California Grizzly Bear – It Was Very Good

California Grizzly
Monarch, preserved specimen at the California Academy of Sciences

California Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos californicus)

The California Grizzly Bear, once considered its own species Ursus horribilis, was a subspecies of the North American Brown Bear or Grizzly Bear. The California Grizzly was very closely related to the Grizzly Bears of the southern coasts of Alaska. The bear was known, and lauded, for its size, strength, and beauty. The bear shared its physiology with the Kodiak Bear, though it appears to not have had the pronounced shoulder hump those bears do.

California Grizzly

Experts estimate that the California Grizzly population was approximately 10,000 at its peak, around the 1820s and 1830s. The bears were a common sight to the Indians, the Spaniards, and the flood of Americans arriving during and after the Gold Rush. The animal was endemic to the lowlands and foothills of the state from the Sierras down to the deserts in the south. The expansion of humans into California and Grizzly habitat after the Gold Rush lead to direct competition between the two species. California newspapers of the late nineteenth century were replete with accounts of grizzlies raiding livestock and occasionally killing humans. By the end of the 1800s, the animal could only be found in the Santa Ana Mountains, the Southern Sierra Nevada, the mountains of Santa Barbara County, and the San Gabriel Mountains.

It is believed the last California Grizzly was killed in 1922 in Tulare County.

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