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Grizzly bears: Really extinct in California?
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Recently, I got an email from a fellow who is sure he saw a grizzly bear in a mountainous area not far from the Nevada border. The fellow included several photos of the bear that appear to have been taken from a distance of several hundred yards.  Back in 2012 I had written a column about the possibility that critters which all the experts have thought extinct, including wolves, wolverines and California Grizzly bears.

While the last California wolf was ostensibly trapped in Lassen County in 1924, the California Wolf Center notes that, the U.S. Forest Service estimated that there were some 50 wolves in California as recently as 1937. There appears to be a pretty sizeable group of well educated people who believe that wolves were never extinct in California. Now there is documented proof that wolf packs are alive

A decade or so ago, all the experts declared the wolverine to be extinct in California. Until a graduate research student setting trail cameras got pictures of one in the Lake Tahoe region. Since then there have been numerous photos of wolverines in California. I guess those darned wolverines didn’t read that they were extinct. 

Untold thousands of school kids visit the California Academy of Science in San Francisco and see the extinct stuffed California Grizzly on display. I always thought it was kind of sad that the great bear that adorns our flag was no more. Wouldn’t it be magnificent if the California Grizzly were still with us? I’ll let you in on a little secret, they may be still with us. No jive!

 I once knew a fellow named David Jordan who was a licensed bear guide, and who had hunted bear in California for almost 50 years. You can tell a guy is a real bear hunter when he begins to roll up his sleeves and pant cuffs to show you his scars. Or when he takes out his glass eye.  David knew bears like Tiger Woods knows golf. A couple of years ago he was backpacking in a really remote part of California, when he was charged by a grizzly and had to kill it in self defense. A novice hiker might mistake a large black bear for a grizzly, but not this guy. When I asked him what he did with the Grizzly he’d killed, he replied that he left it right where it fell, observing “There was no way I was going to prison for killing the last California Grizzly”. 

A further confirmation of the Grizzlies in California theory was a conversation I had with a biologist employed by the California State Parks. In the course of our conversation, I asked what his educational background was and he mentioned that he got his Masters degree studying urban bears in California. When I ran my California Grizzly theory past him, the bear biologist told me that every year there are some huge bears taken in California, and that because Grizzly Bears are officially extinct, that these huge bears are routinely catalogued as Black Bears. The fellow winked and said that the “state never makes mistakes”.

Officially the California Grizzly has been extinct since 1922. Fortunately, the California Grizzlies still out there don’t that know they’re extinct. Is it possible there are still some wild grizzlies in some really remote corner of California?  I’m convinced there are.  One day soon, you might just read about the official re-discovery of the fabled California Grizzly Bear. Just remember, you read it here first.


Until next week, Tight Lines