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The Grizzly As Fremont Found Him

General Fremont found this powerful brute to be a gregarious
and confiding creature, fond of his family and not given to
disturbing those who did not disturb him. In his report to the
government--1847--he tells of finding a large family of grizzly bears
gathering acorns very much as the native Indians gathered them, and
this not far from a small Mexican town. He says that riding at the
head of his troops he saw, on reaching the brow of a little grassy
hill set with oaks, a great commotion in the boughs of one of the
largest trees, and, halting to cautiously reconnoiter, he noticed that
there were grouped about the base of the tree and under its wide
boughs, several huge grizzlies, employed in gathering and eating the
acorns which the baby grizzlies threw down from the thick branches
overhead. More than this, he reports that the baby bears, on seeing
him, became frightened, and attempted to descend to the ground and run
away, but the older bears, which had not yet discovered the explorers,
beat the young ones and drove them back up the tree, and compelled
them to go on with their work, as if they had been children.

In the early '50s, I, myself, saw the grizzlies feeding together in
numbers under the trees, far up the Sacramento Valley, as tranquilly
as a flock of sheep. A serene, dignified and very decent old beast was
the full-grown grizzly as Fremont and others found him here at home.
This king of the continent, who is quietly abdicating his throne, has
never been understood. The grizzly was not only every inch a king, but
he had, in his undisputed dominion, a pretty fair sense of justice. He
was never a roaring lion. He was never a man-eater. He is indebted for
his character for ferocity almost entirely to tradition, but, in some
degree, to the female bear when seeking to protect her young. Of
course, the grizzlies are good fighters, when forced to it; but as for
lying in wait for anyone, like the lion, or creeping, cat-like, as the
tiger does, into camp to carry off someone for supper, such a thing
was never heard of in connection with the grizzly.

The grizzly went out as the American rifle came in. I do not think he
retreated. He was a lover of home and family, and so fell where he was
born. For he is still found here and there, all up and down the land,
as the Indian is still found, but he is no longer the majestic and
serene king of the world. His whole life has been disturbed, broken
up; and his temper ruined. He is a cattle thief now, and even a sheep
thief. In old age, he keeps close to his canyon by day, deep in the
impenetrable chaparral, and at night shuffles down hill to some
hog-pen, perfectly careless of dogs or shots, and, tearing out a
whole side of the pen, feeds his fill on the inmates.

One of the interior counties kept a standing reward for the capture of
an old grizzly of this character for several years. But he defied
everything and he escaped everything but old age. Some hunters finally
crept in to where the old king lay, nearly blind and dying of old age,
and dispatched him with a volley from several Winchester rifles. It
was found that he was almost toothless, his paws had been terribly
mutilated by numerous steel traps, and it is said that his kingly old
carcass had received nearly lead enough to sink a small ship. There
were no means of ascertaining his exact weight, but it was claimed
that skin, bone and bullets, as he was found, he would have weighed
well nigh a ton.

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