The conversation regarding reintroducing grizzly bears to California, and other states, is back on the table, so we thought we’d revisit the history of grizzlies in California. I mean, they’re on the state flag, so they must have a symbiotic relationship, right?
California Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos californicus), or California Golden Bears, were once ubiquitous in California. There were Grizzlies everywhere in California except for the Mojave desert.
The California Girzzly Bear is reported to have been the largest of all Grizzly Bears with one specimen being killed in a town outside San Diego (Valley Center) that stood 8 feet tall and weighed 2,200 lbs in 1866.
It’s estimated that there were around 10,000 grizzlies in California when European settlers arrived. That’s a helluva lotta Griz.
To make a fair comparison, British Columbia, which is 6 times the size of California, had about 25,000 grizzlies when the Euros showed up.
It’s thought that California had the highest concentration of Grizzly bears on Earth. Which would make sense since California had salmon runs every month of the year before white people killed all the salmon.
A salmon run every month of the year would support a lot of grizzly bears…
GOLD KILLS THE CALIFORNIA GRIZZLY:
California Grizzlies and white people lived together in California for 300 years… until the gold rush of 1849. The repeating rifled showed up in California around 1848 and it spelled death for California Grizzlies. The population boom of the California gold rush saw miners and other immigrants killing off Grizzlies in atrocious amounts as they were considered dangerous.
Hunters viciously hunted the Grizzlies for their warm furs.
Settlers in California often poisoned and shot bears to protect livestock.
The last California Grizzly Bear was shot in Tulare County, CA in August 1922.
HISTORY OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE FLAG:
1. 1846. In 1846 California was located squarely inside Mexico. It was called Alta California. Americans had been moving into Alta California and settling there. Mexicans and Americans didn’t exactly get along.
2. Mexican-American War. War between the USA & Mexico was clearly coming from Washington D.C. and was declared on May 13th, 1846.
3. Stealing Horses. As a result of the declaration of war, on June 11th, 1846, North Bay residents captured Mexican Lieutenant Francisco Arce’s horses…yeah, his horses. This began the California insurgency. This insurgency came to be called the “Bear Flag Revolt.”
4. Taking Sonoma. After taking the horses these CA rebels traveled to the tiny town of Sonoma. A total of 34 men had gathered by the time they got to Sonoma on June 14th, 1846. These men took Sonoma and captured all the Mexican officers there without firing a shot. Mexican General Mariano was taken prisoner and sent to Sutter’s Fort (current day Sacramento).
5. Making The “Bear Flag”. The men who took Sonoma created the California Republic Flag and hoisted it on June 17th, 1846. The flag was called the “Bear Flag” and the insurgency was called the “Bear Flag Revolt.” These men who took Sonoma were called “Bear Flaggers.”
6. CA Republic Lasted One Month. The Bear Flag Revolt lasted about one month from June 14th until Junly 7th, 1846. On July 9th, 1846 the Bear Flag was lowered in Sonoma and the USA flag was raised.
7. Bear Flag Becomes California State Flag. “In January and February 1911, these events came to fruition and on February 3, 1911 the Bear Flag became California’s State flag at the signing of State Senate Bill 291 by Governor Hiram Johnson. The Bear Flag has remained the California Flag since that time.” – BearFlagMuseum.org
|At a company meeting it was determined that we should raise a flag, and that it should be a bear en passant [French: ‘in passing’], with one star. One of the ladies at the garrison gave us a piece of brown domestic, and Mrs. Captain John Sears gave us some strips of red flannel about 4 inches wide. The domestic was new, but the flannel was said to have been part of a petticoat worn by Mrs. Sears across the mountains…I took a pen, and with ink drew the outline of the bear and star upon the white cloth. Linseed oil andVenetian red were found in the garrison, and I painted the bear and star…Underneath the bear and star were printed with a pen the words ‘California Republic’ in Roman letters. In painting the words I first lined out the letters with a pen, leaving out the letter ‘i’ and putting ‘c’ where ‘i’ should have been, and afterwards the ‘i’ over the ‘c’. It was made with ink, and we had nothing to remove the marks.||”|
|—William L. “Bill” Todd, artist of original Bear Fla|
ONE MORE CRAZY CALIFORNIA GRIZZLY FACT:
The stock market connection:
Spanish caballeros roped grizzlies in California, dragging them into doomed public battles with wild bulls.
This popular spectator sport inspired betting as to whether the bear or the bull would win.
This gave the modern stock market its “bear” and “bull” nicknames — the bear swipes downward while the bull hooks upward.