Californian grizzly

Extinct in 1924
  • Californian grizzly
  • Californian grizzly

The Dwarf and the Giant - Mexican and Californian grizzlies the newest arrivals in our LOST ZOO

The ancestors of the Brown bear (Ursus arctos) lived in Asia. About 250.000 years ago the brown bears migrated to Europe and North Africa and 100.000 years ago via the Behring Street to Alaska. But they did not move further southwards until 13.000 years ago, probably because of the competition with the much larger Short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) which lived there and became extinct around 11.000 years ago.
Shortly later, the North American brown bear or grizzly inhabited almost all the semi-open landscapes from Alaska to Mexico. Its name “grizzly” refers to the golden and grey tips of the hairs.

Skeletal specimen of Aurochs@Copenhagen NH Museum

Stuffed Californian grizzly@California Natural History Museum(Click to view larger image).

Because of its wide distribution in America 9 grizzly subspecies or populations are registered. Genetically all of them are closely related and often seen as only one subspecies with different populations. Like the Atlas bear in North Africa which became extinct already in the 1870ies, today two American subspecies are extinct too, the California grizzly and the most southern population, the Mexican grizzly. The Mexican grizzly is smaller than all the other grizzly bears in the United States and Canada. Nevertheless for Mexico it is the heaviest and largest mammal. It reaches a length up to 183 cm and an average weight of 318 kg. The general color is pale buffy yellowish or grayish-white, grizzled from the darker color of the underfur. The longest fur hairs are on the throat and the flanks. The belly is sparsely haired lacking the thick underfur of the back and the flanks.

Jamaican sunset butterfly on top and  Green-banded urania Pig-net tree(Omphalea triandra)

The painting of "Bear Hunting"
(Click to view larger image).

Mexican grizzlies
(Click to view larger image).

The Mexican grizzly bear inhabits the temperate grasslands and mountainous pine forests in the northern territories of Mexico. Like all Brown bears the Mexican grizzly is omnivorous. Its diet mainly consists of plants, fruits and insects. Occasionally it feeds on small mammals and carrion too. Of course they hunt from time to time also cattle. Therefore the farmers considered the Mexican grizzly as a pest and hunted, trapped and poisoned the grizzly which had already become scarce in the 1930s. Its former range decreased to 3 isolated mountains. By 1960 only 30 of Mexican grizzlies were left and despite its protected status the hunting continued and already by 1964 it was regarded as extinct. But in 1976 a grizzly was shot in Sonora. This was the fourth confirmed in Sonora and the first in many decades. Today the Mexican grizzly is definitely extinct.

 
Skeletal specimen of Aurochs@Copenhagen NH Museum

Several motifs by Californian grizzly(Click to view larger image).

Although the distribution of the California grizzly, which is extinct today too, extends slightly south into Baja California Norte, the bears in Chihuahua, Sonora and central Mexico are more related to the grizzlies of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas than to those of California.

Jamaican sunset butterfly on top and  Green-banded urania Pig-net tree(Omphalea triandra)

Size comparison of Short-faced bear, Brown bear and Californian grizzly
(Click to view larger image).

Skeleton of Short-faced bear@La Brea tar pits Museum
(Click to view larger image).

With a height of 245 cm and a weight of 1.000 kg the California grizzly is one of the largest and most powerful North American bears. It is admired in California for its beauty, size, and strength. The California grizzly became one of the state’s most visible and enduring symbols, adorning both the state flag and seal. Even 30 years after its extinction, the California grizzly was designated in 1953 the official state animal. Although extinct since 60 years the California grizzly is the most popular animal and the logo for many Californian products and sports clubs.
When European immigrants arrived in California 10.000 grizzlies inhabited most regions of the state. But when after the discovery of gold in 1848 settlers began to populate California and to establish large cattle herds as the main industry, the grizzly bears killed some livestock and became the farmers’ enemy. They commonly shot and poisoned the bears to protect their livestock. Later the grizzly was hunted for sport and its warm fur. Sometimes the grizzlies were roped and captured to be displayed in public battles with bulls.

Jamaican sunset butterfly enclosure in LOST ZOO

Californian grizzly enclosure in LOST ZOO
(Click to view larger image).

In the beginning of the 20th century almost every grizzly bear in California had been tracked down and killed. The last known specimen of a California grizzly was shot and killed in Fresno County in 1922. Two years later the last wild California grizzly was spotted several times in the Sequoia NP and then never seen again. Civilized man had made California’s official animal officially extinct by 1924. Therefore we are happy that this impressive and popular California grizzly found a new home in our LOST ZOO and can be observed now in its large enclosure next to the Giant bison. But the visitor needs some patience to observe the California grizzly because instead of its large body size the bear is very often hidden between the lush green vegetation.

Executive Curator
JURGEN LANGE

Californian grizzlies

The Eurasian brown bear (Ursus arctos) migrated via the Behring Street to Alaska and later further southwards. Since about 11.000 years the North American brown bear or grizzly inhabited almost all the semi-open landscapes from Alaska to Mexico. Its name “grizzly” refers to the golden and grey tips of the hairs.
Because of its wide distribution 9 genetically closely related subspecies or populations are registered. Today two of these subspecies are extinct. The Californian grizzly became extinct in 1924 and the most southern population, the Mexican grizzly, 1964.

Height: The Californian grizzly is the largest grizzly subspecies with a height up to 245 cm, whereas the Mexican grizzly is the smallest grizzly bear with a height of 183 cm.

Body weight: 1000 kg (male Californian grizzly) and 318 kg for the Mexican grizzly.

Habitat: Temperate semi-open grasslands and mountainous forests.

Extinction:Because the bears killed sometimes livestock, the farmers regarded them as a pest for their cattle and trapped, shot and poisoned the bear. Therefore the Californian grizzly became extinct in 1924 and the Mexican grizzly in 1964.

Animal Exhibition
Californian grizzly