(BANCROFT LIBRARY, UC BERKELEY)
In 1916, Cornelius Birket Johnson, a Los Angeles fruit farmer, killed the
last known grizzly bear in Southern California and the second-to last
confirmed grizzly bear in the entire state of California. (More)
Bring The Grizzly Back To California
- As a Conservative John Muir Conservationist I firmly believe that Man is the real beast that is dangerous. We pave over and destroy all that is beautiful in nature.
- If it was not for the environmental movement we would see Walmart and auto malls in Yosemite Valley, and ALWAYS man would claim it is in the name of "progress".
(San Francisco Chronicle) - The only place the grizzly bear lives in California today is at the San Francisco Zoo, but an Arizona-based advocacy group wants to change that.
The Center for Biological Diversity would like to see the iconic animal depicted on the California flag return to the wilds of the Golden State where they haven't been seen in nearly 100 years.
The environmental group filed a people's petition late last year calling on the California Fish and Game Commission to conduct a feasibility study looking at reintroducing grizzlies — a much larger and more dangerous relative of the black bear — in California's Sierra Nevada.
The center's wildlife biologists have identified 8,000 square miles that they believe is prime grizzly habitat. They believe the animals could thrive and bring balance to nature in the remote areas of Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks and the national forest land in between, as well as in a separate pocket in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. (See map in gallery above.)
|Man The Butcher|
BANCROFT LIBRARY, UC BERKELEY
This summer, the group is launching an ad campaign to encourage more Californians to sign the petition and raise awareness among state politicians. As of early July, 12,000 people have signed and the group is hoping to reach 50,000.
The center went down a similar road in 2014, when it filed a legal petition in 2014 calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the possibility of grizzly reintroduction in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The request was rejected, and Biological Diversity Conservation Advocate Jeff Miller thinks likely due to "political will."
"I don't think there was any good legal or biological reason for it," Miller said. "All it was asking for was for them to study whether it was feasible. I think they were wanting to avoid controversy. Grizzlies are dangerous and the thought of them being around can scare people."
Part of the push for bringing the grizzly bear back to California is related to a proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove bears in the Yellowstone Region from its list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Some 50,000 grizzlies once inhabited the lower 48, but in 1975, those numbers dwindled to 1,000 and in the Yellowstone area 136 bears remained. Today, roughly 1,500 to 1,800 grizzlies are in the lower 48, and 700 to 800 in the Yellowstone region, and many of the agency's biologists think these numbers mark a successful recovery and indicate it's time to lift the ban on hunting and trapping them.
|Man killed every bear until you could only find a carcass in a museum.|
But Miller feels it's too early to de-list the grizzly and says the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is already fast-tracking approval of the state's first trophy hunt of grizzlies in 40 years.
"We're concerned once they lose Endangered Species protection, the populations is going to start plummeting," Miller says. "We think this is the time to protect those existing bears and get bears back to their usual haunts."
And one of those haunts was once California. Before the Gold Rush and hunting eventually led the species to become extinct in the Golden State in the early 1900s, the bear populations were especially dense along the state's coastal regions and river valleys, areas where the combination of rich, fertile land and abundant wildlife provided food and habitat for grizzlies.
But now people have flooded these areas, and some experts don't think there's enough space in the state to accommodate these mega-fauna. The bears are notoriously dangerous, and while they rarely kill humans, these incidents are tragic, and some think encounters with humans in highly populated California would be inevitable.
"Not only are we approaching 40 million people in this state, grizzly bears traditionally would roam oak woodlands and even beaches and eat whale carcasses," says Jordan Traverso, a spokesperson for the California Fish and Game Commission. "Reintroducing them would suggest bringing them into places where people are now, not typical black bear habitat. The idea has been a nonstarter for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife."
With that said, Traverso says if a petition is delivered to the Commission it will undergo the formal review process.
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