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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