Consortium of Aquariums, Universities and Zoos

The Story of the CAUZ Bear

logo of a bear

The CAUZ logo came from an original print that I purchased in the early 1970's near the town of New Hazelton, British Columbia. This grizzly bear was selected as our logo when CAUZ was established in the summer of 1985. [The lips of the bear form the "C" of CAUZ and the "A," "U," and "Z" can be found in its teeth.]

The grizzly bear has special meaning for us Californians: the "golden bear" is our state mammal and appears on our state flag. But this bear may have additional meaning for those of us who are concerned about wildlife conservation. You see, our state mammal is extinct in California. But rather than mourning the loss of this magnificent creature, I have read that most Californians celebrated when the last California grizzly was shot! This is what was written about our state animal in the July-August 1997 Outdoor California [Vol. 58, No. 4, page 16]:
"Before becoming extinct in California, the largest and most powerful of carnivores - the California grizzly bear - thrived in the great valleys and low mountains of the state, probably in greater numbers than anywhere else in the United States. As humans began to populate California, the grizzly stood its ground, refusing to retreat in the face of an advancing civilization. It killed livestock and interfered with settlers. Less than 75 years after the discovery of gold, every grizzly bear in California had been tracked down and killed. The last one was killed in Tulare County in August 1922, more than 20 years before the authority to regulate the take of fish and wildlife was delegated to the California Fish and Game Commission by the Legislature."
While many of us today are very interested in preserving other species of what Tom Foose has termed "charismatic mega-vertebrates," I have heard nothing at all about restoring the grizzly bear to our state. Indeed, since my mountain home is in Tulare County in its previous range, I myself would have some misgivings about such a plan!

Photo of a mother grizzly with her cub behind her.  
They are standing at the edge of a lake 
and their reflections are in the water below them.

The CAUZ bear symbolizes the great mammalian wealth of the Pleistocene, much of which disappeared from our continent 10,000 years ago. We celebrate the present-day remnants of this wealth: the moose, the elk, the bison, the grizzly. But the CAUZ bear may also symbolize an incongruity of the conservation movement: most people are not very enthusiastic about preserving species that we consider to be competitors or that may bring harm to our own species - such as the wolf or the grizzly.

Many Californians who spend a lot of time in the mountains have learned to cope with its healthy populations of black bears and mountain lions. It is completely understandable that adding a formidable predator like the grizzly to this habitat would not be welcomed by its human residents. [And as I indicated above, I include myself in this group: my home in the Southern Sierras is much safer without grizzlies!] But I find it ironic that we expect people who live in other countries to tolerate large predators like the tiger!

So we Californians only know our state mammal - the golden bear - by seeing it in captivity. But this is rather difficult to do in a state in which zoos are much more likely to display other species of bear. I once asked a zoo director why so few California zoos display grizzlies. The answer I got? "Because they are too common."

Drawing of a black bear walking in the mountains.

"The Black Bear" by Sara Deardorff

"More than any species, grizzlies represent wilderness. If the grizzly bear, with its wide ranging habits, can survive, then many other species will survive."

Stephen Herrero

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Animated GIF of a cartoon gray wolf running.