Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Death of the California Grizzly.

There used to be a critter in California called the California Grizzly Bear known by it's scientific name of Ursa Horribilis and sometimes Ursus Arctos Horribilis. It is a sub species of the California brown bear or Ursus Arctos. This magnificent critter can now be seen prominently displayed on the California state flag. Cal Government Code section 425 declares it to be the official state animal. Yes we pay our legislators to do this kind of stuff. It is after all easier than balancing the state's budget or even running around talking about traditional values and sounding extremely foolish to anyone who will listen. It has now been classified as extinct in California although members of its species still can still be found in other portions of North America.
In its heyday it was very common and was at the top of the food chain until the white man came to California in the late 18th century. European immigrants have proved very dangerous to native peoples and critters. For some 'mysterious' reason the population of Grizzlies as they were called dropped as the population of California increased. I won't speculate on the reasons therefor. They were hunted for all sorts of reasons, the least of which was for food. The meat of this critter was tough and gamy and not much desired by good white folks. The native peoples of California (who are close to extinction themselves) didn't hunt them and lived in harmony with them. Even the Spaniards captured the native peoples, christianized them and made them live adjacent to the California missions that were strung up and down the coast of California. The caucasian immigrants in search of gold and other riches didn't believe in living harmoniously with anything. We see that today in the nativist movement that has given rise to such abominations as restrictions applied to undocumented 'aliens' as though they aren't people entitled to the blessings that California has given all of us. This is evident when one considers the fact those 'illegal aliens' as they are so derisively called have lived along the pacific coast of north and central America for thousands of years and were essentially a migratory people.
Well about ten days ago some fraternal group arrived in my hometown and erected a monument. I cant really tell what the monument is to. The text on it is somewhat unclear. It could be to honor the damn bear or the guy who organized the lynch mob who chased down Orange County's last grizzly and killed it here in the Santa Ana Mountains somewhere near what is today Trabuco Canyon. It could also be to honor themselves. I doubt that we will ever know.
Ed Atkinson was a minor county official, the county game warden in the early years of the 20th century, I have no idea what his real duties as such an officer were (or even if he really existed) but he is memorialized in this monument entitled Death of the California Grizzly. According to the history recounted on the monument there was a grizzly bear wandering the Santa Ana Mountains and interfering with commercial bee hives. Now Ed in addition to holding his political office was also an apiarist or beekeeper. Ed obviously felt threatened by the alleged honey comb thief and organized what can only be described as a lynch mob to bring to justice this errant bear who after all was just trying to earn a meager living in these coastal desert mountains. I mean who can blame the bear. Why chase down a squirrel for dinner when it's easier to raid a bee hive? People do it all the time. Instead of cooking we opt for fast food at a hamburger handout. Anyhow Warden Ed summoned his mounted posse and went hunting for the grizzly. Eventually the dogs hit on its scent and gave chase and to make a long story short they cornered it and some one (or more) of the posse/lynch mob members shot the thing to death. As luck would have it the bear turned out to be an elderly female bereft of mate and cubs just trying to survive.
There is a lesson to be learned from this. I will let the reader mull over the story and apply it themselves.

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