Grizzly Bear California is an extinct subspecies of the grizzly, the very large North American brown bear. “Grizzly” refers to the golden and grey tips of its hair. Genetically, North American grizzlies are closely related; in size and coloring, the California grizzly was much like the grizzly of the southern coast of Alaska. In California, it was particularly admired for its beauty, size, and strength. Many accounts from pioneers describe grizzlies in long, bloody fights with angry longhorn bulls, and often winning. Early on, the grizzly became a symbol of the State, was the basis of the state flag, and historically, California was known as the “Bear State.”
In 1866, a grizzly weighing 2,200 pounds (1,000 kg) was killed in Valley Center, California, the biggest bear ever found in California, unsurpassed until John Lang shot the world’s biggest bear — 2,320 pounds (1,050 kg) — near his ranch by Canyon Country, in 1873.
California still has habitat for about 500 grizzlies, and if the North Cascade population recovers and expands, eventually the grizzly will likely return to California. There are however only about 20 of these bears remaining in that ecosystem.