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The Last Know Grizzly Bear in Los Angeles County

Once California Grizzly Bears (and bears in general, for that matter) were quite common throughout Southern California. The last known Grizzly Bear in Southern California, however, and second-to-last in the entire state was shot and killed on October 26, 1916 by farmer Cornelius B. Johnson in the Sunland area of Los Angeles County. Johnson was aggravated by the damage the bear was doing to his crops and concerned that its tracks indicated it to be a large animal, thus a threat to the safety of his wife and two young daughters. Over three days, Johnson managed to track down and shoot the 250-pound bear. Because grizzlies were already a rare sight in California by that time, Johnson had never actually seen one until the incident.

Johnson's Grizzly was not only the last of its species known to roam Southern California, but, for the next 17 years, the last known bear of any species to freely roam anywhere in Southern California. In 1933, San Bernardino businessman J. Dale Gentry, seeking to return the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains to their earlier "wilder" states, brought 28 problem black bears from Yosemite to be introduced into the mountains of Southern California. Black Bears normally stayed at higher elevations to minimize encounters with Grizzlies, but finding the new Southern California environment to be "Grizzly-free," quickly expanded their territory to include suburban neighborhoods.

There are, at present, serious proposals to reintroduce grizzlies to California through back-breeding, cloning and genetic engineering.

Source: Natural History Magazine



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