Last sighted in 1924, will grizzlies return to California?


Will grizzly bears return to California?

It seems like a strange question to ask, especially given that California was once known as the “Bear State Republic” and even sports a grizzly on its own state flag. Nevertheless, grizzlies no longer reside in the Golden State. That’s why conservationists are giving serious consideration to repopulating California with them in order to restore the animal’s natural range and improve the state’s natural biodiversity.

Historically, scientists estimate there were around 10,000 bears romping through California’s forests a few hundred years ago. The last known one was called “Monarch the Bear.” He lived over twenty years in captivity and was paraded before thousands at the 1894 World’s Fair before ultimately being euthanized in 1911. The last reported sighting of a wild grizzly was in 1924. Today grizzlies only exist outside California — in a few pockets throughout the Rocky Mountains, or about four percent of their historical range.

But that may be about to change.

The California Grizzly Research Network is undertaking an effort to bring about a reintroduction of the bears. Peter Alagona, a leader of this network and the author of After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in California, was recently interviewed by InsideHook magazine, and had this to say:

“We know that tolerance for large carnivores is generally increasing,” Alagona says. “California has seen its population of black bears roughly quadruple, and there’s now a population approaching 40,000 — certainly more than 30,000. All of these factors presented an opportunity. Grizzlies are part of California: You’ve got the UCLA Bruins, they’re on our state flag — they’re everywhere here, except in the actual flesh.”

Alagona’s group — including researchers, ethicists, and scientists, are investigating issues like the genetic similarities between California grizzlies and other populations of grizzlies and are preparing their findings for release and public discussion in 2024. Not by coincidence, that year marks 100 years since the final California grizzly sighting, in Sequoia National Park.

To read the article in its entirety in InsideHook, click here.

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