The California grizzly is one of the state’s most visible and enduring symbols, adorning both the state flag and seal. The Bear Flag first flew in 1846 as a symbol of the short-lived California Republic. A second version was adopted as the state flag by the state legislature in 1911. The bear symbol became a permanent part of the state seal in 1849 and The California Grizzly was designated the official state animal in 1953. So, why not look for it in Yosemite National Park? This is because there are no more grizzlies in California.
When Euro-Americans arrived, they found a large population of grizzlies throughout the state. At one time there were over 10,000 grizzly bears in California, but people’s fear of the enormous animal drove the bears to extinction. The grizzly of California was truly a massive animal, weighing anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 pounds. The mild climate throughout much of California fostered a great environment for these bears in the Central Valley and along the coast and because these bears did not need to hibernate (bears hibernate based on food availability), they were indeed huge. By the early 1900s, few grizzlies and little of their prime habitat in the Central Valley remained. The last grizzly seen in Yosemite was killed in 1895, five years after Yosemite was declared a national park and the last California grizzly was killed south of Yosemite in the Sierra foothills in the 1920s.
In 2014 the US Fish and Wildlife Service received a petition to reintroduce the grizzly to California, but the idea was rejected. In 2015 the Center for Biological Diversity launched another petition, this time aimed at the California state legislature, to reintroduce the grizzly bear into California. This reintroduction would be from the very closely related Rocky Mountain grizzly. They can be a source of danger. A female grizzly with cubs killed a hiker in Yellowstone last year—but bear attacks are exceedingly rare. The Center for Biological Diversity is betting on taking its case directly to the public. It’s gathered about 13,000 signatures on an online petition, and is about to launch the next phase of a web and social media campaign under the banner, “Bring Back the Bear.”
So, what do you think? Should grizzly bears be reintroduced to areas in California?