A grizzly history of bears in old Pasadena
|May 14, 2012 - "Bear were once common in California. A book of California place names say there are least 500 features in California with the word Bear included. Just above Altadena as a branch of the Arroyo Seco we have Bear Canyon. Farther east there is Big Bear Lake. Grizzly Flat is in the Big Tujunga area."|
|Pasadena Star News|
|The illustration is from the Library of Congress. (Library of Congress)|
The Star-News recently had a picture of a bear with two cubs in the Kinneloa Mesa area.
Bear were once common in California. A book of California place names say there are least 500 features in California with the word Bear included. Just above Altadena as a branch of the Arroyo Seco we have Bear Canyon. Farther east there is Big Bear Lake. Grizzly Flat is in the Big Tujunga area.
In Reid's 1895 History of Pasadena, E. W. Giddings tells this story:
"During the winter of 1879-80, bears kept robbing our bee stands, a lot of which we had in the opening now called Elms' Canyon ... About 2 o'clock in the morning, just as the moon was going out of sight, I heard a noise among the bees and started out to investigate. Creeping slowly and cautiously along and peering right and left among the hives, I finally espied a bear beyond one of the tall hives - and he wasn't a baby, either. I took aim and fired, and over he tumbled, hitting his right shoulder where the bullet had entered vigorously with his left paw; and he gave one of the most terrific barks or grunts I ever heard."
The bear came after Giddings who fired again, and the bear fell dead.
He writes, "This was the only genuine grizzly killed at Pasadena since the town commenced. I killed or helped to kill three other bears that same year."
Reid comments generally on bears, "Nearly all the old hunters insist that there are four or five kinds of bears found in the western country
- the grizzly, black, brown and cinnamon ... The grizzly is one of the most formidable of all animals.
"It attains a length of nine feet and a weight of over 1800 pounds. The black bear is naturally vegetarian, though they vary their diet according to the supply. In the fall they are usually fat, and in cold climate go into what is termed a state of hibernation. In this country bears in all probability do not hibernate, though it is possible they pass through a partial hibernation on the high range where snow lies for several months."
Bears are frequent visitors in the upper parts of Monrovia and Bradbury.
Sid Gally is a Pasadena Museum of History volunteer.