California Grizzly Bear
California grizzly bear is an extinct subspecies of Brown bear. Their appearance was quite like the bears found in the southern coast of present day Alaska. In California (formerly known as Bear Republic), this subspecies was admired for its size, strength and beauty.
Earlier, all grizzlies found in North America were grouped together as a unique species till recent DNA testing showed that they must be sorted taxonomically in the same species. Thenceforward, the California grizzly was reclassified as a separate species.
|Subspecies/ Scientific Name||U. arctos californicus|
|Other name||California Golden bear, or Golden Bear|
|Size||Shoulder height – 70 to 153 cmBody length – 140 to 280 cm|
|Weight||265 to 830 pounds|
|Diet||Fish, roots, seeds, berries, grasses, fungi, deer, elk, dead animals, insects etc.|
|Lifespan||20 – 22 years|
The first recorded encounter of California grizzlies came from the dairies of Europeans kept by Portola expedition members in 1769. From earlier accounts, it was known that they often could be seen in bloody battles with longhorn bulls.
The California grizzly was found from the peak of the Sierra County, throughout the sweeping valleys to coastal beaches.
Habitat and Adaptation
Their habitat included forests, woodlands and meadows. In winter they used to live in higher elevation. In summer and spring, they preferred to dwell in lower elevation.
The settlers introduced huge cattle herds triggering habitat loss for the California grizzlies. It forced the bears to kill livestock and thus becoming ranchers’ enemies. Across the western part of the state, this Grizzly subspecies were trapped, poisoned and shot. In less that seventy-five years, after the uncovering of gold in 1848, every Grizzly specimen in the Bear State were tracked down and killed.
The last accounted hunt took place in Tulare County, California, in August 1922. In 1924, the last reported grizzly sighting came from Sierra Madre Mountains, in Santa Barbara County.
- In 1866, a California grizzly weighing around 2200 pounds was killed in Valley Center, California. It was believed to be the biggest bear ever killed till John Lang shot an individual weighing 2320 pounds in 1873, near his ranch in Canyon Country.
- At times, Grizzlies are captured and displayed in public battles with bulls, attracting bets from the spectators.
- The word “Grizzly” suggests the golden and grey hair tips.
- In 1953, the California Grizzly was named the official state animal.
- The California Maritime Academy has a training ship called “Golden Bear.”
This subspecies is the most enduring and visible symbol of California, decking both the state seal and the state flag. Grizzly was the symbol of the Bear Republic, the name that California carried when it was an independent country. Later the national flag of the Bear Republic became the state flag of California, which is still popular as ‘Bear State.’ In 1911, a new version of the state flag was adopted by the state legislature. In 1849, the bear seal became a permanent part of the state seal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition where they were asked to meet their legal obligation under the Endangered Species Act and introduce Grizzly bears to a sufficient and suitable space in the West. California still holds a great habitat for 500 grizzly bears. The petition, however, did not ask for immediate introduction of Grizzly population. It also asked to bring proper groundwork including public education and careful study of its habitat.