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This is not just theoretical posturing. Greenwald, who serves as endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity , is passionately interested in the following questions: Can the grizzly be restored to California? And if so, should it? To the first question, Greenwald believes the answer is a resounding yes. In , the CBD filed a petition with the U. Fish and Wildlife Service asking the agency to revise its national recovery plan for grizzly bears to include California's Sierra Nevada as an area for release.

According to an analysis by Carroll from , a 2,square-mile section of prime habitat along the crest of the High Sierra could support a population of between 48 and bears. In addition to making management recommendations to wildlife agencies, Greenwald has mounted an aggressive public relations offensive on behalf of the bears. His work was highlighted in several major newspapers, and in he published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.

But over the last several decades, we have learned much about how to live with these impressive animals. California has the space for bears and people. As of March, the CBD's public petition to restore the bears had garnered nearly 20, signatures. The climate in Washington, D. The Trump administration has expressed open hostility toward land conservation, and its proposed budget cuts all grant funding to states for endangered-species protection.

Meanwhile, last summer, grizzly bears were delisted in Yellowstone after 42 years on the Endangered Species List. While the number of grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone region has increased more than four-fold, from bears in to over today, many wildlife biologists question whether that number represents a self-sustaining population.

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In the wake of the delisting by the Department of the Interior, state wildlife managers in Wyoming are now moving to reinstate a grizzly hunt. For its part, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife has been firm in its opposition to reintroduction. Deputy Director of Communication Jordan Traverso has called spending time and money to study the issue a "non-starter. Grizzly bear skull, catalogued in , California Academy of Sciences.

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Traverso, like other critics of grizzly reintroduction, points to a single figure: That, of course, is the number of people presently residing in California, the country's most populous state. The calculus is that the sheer number of people scattered across the landscape makes harmful, even fatal, interactions for both bears and humans inevitable.

Critics also note that many of California's coastal areas—once prime habitat for California's grizzlies—are now built up with cities and towns. These urbanized areas present significant, even impenetrable, obstacles to large migrating mammals such as grizzly bears, which can roam across territories that span hundreds of square miles.

Other critics have resorted to more emotional appeals. In , the Sacramento Bee published a series of letters received in response to a column by Mariel Garza about the pros and cons of reintroduction. Many comments landed on the con side of the issue as did the column itself. Collectively they added up to a sort of grotesque composite. One letter referred to the bears as "super-predators. Unlike their black bear cousins, these bears are territorial and a normal, healthy grizzly will kill you. It's moronic to even think a grizzly should reside in California anywhere outside of a zoo.

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Some of these biologists belong there as well. Greenwald confronts the anti-bear talking points head on, calmly, just as one is told to do upon encountering a grizzly in the backcountry. Greenwald points out that millions of people visit Yellowstone National Park every year, and that human-bear incidents are tremendously low.

In fact, over the park's year history, only eight people have been killed by bears as of this writing. The Park Service has determined that, if visitors stick to the park's "developed areas" along established trails and roads, the odds of getting attacked by a grizzly are about one in 25 million —about the same chance of a visitor getting hit by lightning.

Humans, on the other hand, are undisputedly the greatest threat to bears. According to a joint study conducted by Canadian and American wildlife agencies, around 80 percent of the deaths of radio-collared bears in North America between and were caused by people. This March, unexpected attention for grizzly bear recovery came from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke , who visited North Cascades National Park headquarters to voice support for grizzly reintroduction there. In his speech, he referenced many of the same arguments as Greenwald does for bringing back what Zinke called the "great bear.

But the science is compelling. Greenwald refers to a growing body of data showing that large predators such as grizzlies exert a powerful and beneficial top-down influence known in science jargon as the "trophic cascade" on ecosystems. For example, a grizzly reintroduction may actually reduce human-bear conflicts.

This is not a contradiction, because black bears—not grizzlies—are the North American ursine species that tends to get into the most trouble with people, according to Greenwald. He points out that the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone unexpectedly bolstered fox populations, which had been severely suppressed by an overpopulation of coyotes. To imagine what a future California would be like with grizzly bears, one must look to the past—which is how I ended up in the archives of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

Maureen "Moe" Flannery, the museum's birds and mammals collection manager, and Jack Dumbacher, curator and chair of the California Academy's Ornithology and Mammalogy department, led me through the museum's labyrinthine interior, between dozens of rows of stark white cabinets punctuated by the occasional stuffed carcass of an animal peering out from a man-made perch. We passed several rows then turned down one of them and stopped abruptly.

Flannery motioned to a cabinet, which contained what looked like a greatest hits of American extinction. Inside lay the preserved bodies of two ivory-billed woodpeckers, thought to have gone extinct in its last known habitat in Louisiana in the s though several reported sightings in Florida and Arkansas suggest that a small population may still exist. Flannery picked one up and held it delicately in her gloved hands.

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The preserved body was angular, almost spear-like. Beside the woodpeckers were a dozen or so vibrant green birds, their heads fringed in yellow and orange. These were the preserved remains of Carolina parakeets, a species of neo-tropical parrot that once inhabited old growth forests from New York to the Gulf of Mexico and all the way to eastern Colorado. The birds, declared extinct in , were arrayed on their backs in a neat row, as one might organize ties in a drawer. Next, Flannery picked up an oblong skull, tobacco-brown with age and flanged with massive canines.

The teeth were set at an angle, with the lower canines positioned in front of the top ones. A tag affixed to the skull read, in a neat, antique script: No. Monterey Co. The number indicates the order in which specimens were catalogued by the museum. This grizzly skull was acquired in , I was told, two decades after the museum was destroyed by fire during the earthquake. Flannery carefully tucked the skull away and proceeded down another series of hallways into a refrigerated room known as the pelt room, where the air is kept at around 50 degrees Fahrenheit to protect the specimens stored within.

On a set of shelves, a stuffed coyote, seal, and armadillo held vigil. Dumbacher noted that the mounted moose head on the wall just outside the room once graced San Francisco City Hall. We then approached a wooden crate draped with opaque plastic.

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Inside was a large, indistinct brown mass. Flannery pulled back the plastic, noting the large, block-shaped head protruding from a set of broad, brown shoulders. The face was benign, slightly goofy even. Much of the fur around the snout had been rubbed away, the result of hundreds of curious hands stroking its muzzle during the years the stuffed animal was on public display in the nearby de Young Museum.

This is Monarch, surely the best-known California grizzly in the state, quite possibly the world. He is also the only known California grizzly mounted for public exhibit. Even though he is currently stowed out of view, Monarch's likeness is seen by thousands every day—stalking over a mound of bright green grass, beneath a red star suspended in a pale white sky—on the California state flag. It's hard to imagine this animal, crated and stored unceremoniously like furniture, ranging across the wilds of southern California.

It's even harder when you consider the story, retold by Tevis and Storer, that Monarch was captured in what was little more than a journalistic stunt masterminded by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst suspected that grizzlies were nearly extinct in California. The intrepid if ill-prepared journalist staked out the mountains of Ventura County, near the town of Ojai, as well as the nearby Tehachapi Mountains.

After five months in the backcountry, Kelly was running low on funds and still had not rustled up a wild bear. So, in order to appease his publisher, Kelly did the next best thing: He bought a male grizzly bear caught by trappers in the San Gabriel Mountains.


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That bear was Monarch. For almost 22 years, until his death in , the male grizzly remained in captivity in the San Francisco Zoo. To the very end, Monarch remained stubborn, obstinate—wild. In his book Bears I Have Met—and Others , Kelly wrote , "He will fight anything from a crowbar to a powder magazine, and permit no man to handle him while he can move a muscle. Monarch's remains changed hands several times before being acquired by the California Academy of Sciences in , where his stuffed pelt has been permanently housed ever since many of the bear's bones are across town at the University of California—Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Though Monarch is a symbol of a vanished ecological era, the grizzly's remains could play a critical role in the bear's future in the state. Monarch, it turns out, is one of the only California grizzly specimens from which DNA can be extracted. Enter Beth Shapiro, a University of California—Santa Cruz biology professor, who is well known in rewilding circles, notably for her book How to Clone a Mammoth , which explores the science and thorny ethics of de-extinction: bringing extinct species back through various techniques such as cloning, genetic engineering, and selective breeding.

Shapiro's bear research has primarily focused on the effects of climate change on the genetic make-up of polar bears and grizzly bears in the Arctic. The two bears, it turns out, are very closely related and even capable of interbreeding and producing fertile cubs. Her work has revealed that, over the last 12, years, polar bears trapped on Alaskan islands have been "converted" into brown bears as they have come into contact with grizzlies dispersing from the Alaskan mainland. Shapiro's work mapping bear genes has drawn her into the vanished world of the California grizzly.

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In , she and her research team took bone and tissue samples from Monarch. The French general, however, hardly drew out far enough from the French right; otherwise the magnificent resolution he displayed and the admirable obstinacy with which his troops fought against ever-increasing odds are worthy of all praise. Largely owing to his influence the Liberal party refused in to abandon its Free Trade policy, an obstinacy which led to its defeat in that year.