California Grizzly: Rewilding Is A Moral Duty.

The last grizzly assassinated in California was killed in 1922, a century ago. The place of execution was the Southern Sierra (Fresno-Tulare counties). The species had been hounded to extinction by US citizens.  Since then grizzlies have only resided on Californian flags.

Now there is talk of reintroducing grizzlies in California. It should be a moral duty, symbolic and practical.

Other animals are reintroducing themselves, namely, wolves, who have entered, as packs, north-east California.

A collared male wolf went all over half of California, including the central coast. Twice in the Sierra I met gigantic wild canines who looked suspiciously like wolves (and not coyotes, with whom wolves interbreed…)

Reintroducing the grizzly? Commoners whine that they, the humans, are all over California, 40 million of them, and there is no room for grizzlies. That’s disingenuous: much of California is totally wild, empty of people. I have spent entire days walking and running, covering dozens of miles, not seeing a single human. Minutes from well-known places, one can start seeing strictly nobody.


Yes, grizzlies are dangerous: that is an important characteristic of having them around, and it makes them more worthy. Several species of spiders, wasps and snakes living in California are also dangerous. I was once stung by more than 50 wasps in a sequoia forest on the north side of Mount Tamalpais in a surprise attack. I survived, but others may have died. Last month a mysterious black wasp stung me by a lake in the Alps and my arm swelled spectacularly in minutes before medical treatment could be applied at a pharmacy, which was only 500 meters away. However, I am often hours from roads. Does that mean all stinging insects should be exterminated? 

We can hardly preach to Brazilians, Asians and Africans to take care of their wildernesses, if we refuse to repair ours. 


Grizzlies roaming in California could be managed in diverse ways. Being extremely intelligent animals, they could be taught to avoid people. Also one could equip them with electronic means of localization, and one could imagine apps telling hikers where the grizzlies are, in real time.

Our civilization has a problem with the wilderness in general, and wild animals, in particular.

The Norwegian government euthanized Freya the walrus on Sunday, August 14, 2022, citing safety concerns for the crowds that gathered to watch her sunbathe on a beach next to Oslo. The walrus had visited many European countries in recent years, and seemed curious about people. “The walrus is not getting enough rest and the professionals we are in dialogue with believe she is stressed,” Nadia Jdaini, a senior communications adviser for the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries, said, in a pinnacle of hypocrisy, before secretly and quickly assassinating the curious walrus, obviously on human grounds, or so she claimed. Better dead than stressed by having one’s picture taken, says the Norwegian government! Other professionals saw no stress whatsoever in the walrus’ behavior. 

But the authoritative point is this: the walrus did not wear a mask, the walrus did not respect the lockdown ordered on him by the authorities. The fact the walrus did not know the law is no excuse: authorities rule by the law, especially if wrong. The walrus was creating in human beings unauthorized thought patterns, in particular the walrus contributed to humanize wilderness, something that could have wild consequences, all authorities will tell you that.


North America’s megafauna was devastated during the Neolithic. The Late Pleistocene fauna in North America included herbivores such as mammoths, mastodons, camels, horses, giant beavers, several species of tapirs, peccaries (including the long-nosed and flat-headed peccaries), saiga, camelids such as two species of now-extinct llamas and Camelops, at least two species of bison, the stag-moose, the shrub-ox and Harlan’s muskox, 14 species of pronghorn (of which 13 are now extinct), the beautiful armadillo and the giant armadillo-like Glyptotherium, and giant tortoises, as well as birds like giant condors and teratorns. Predators included Arctodus Primus, the short-faced bear,  the American lion, Miracinonyx (“American cheetahs”, not true cheetahs), the saber-toothed cat Smilodon and the scimitar-toothed cat Homotherium, dire wolves.

The extinction of this megafauna created an imbalance which has consequences on the flora and vegetation. Trampling and eating of trees made forests harder to burn. In recent fires, forests that existed for millennia, with thousands of years old individual trees, burned down to ashes, destroying a large part of ancient species, to the point that they should imminently go extinct. The cause? Forest mismanagement due to lack of megafauna activity (Native Americans had consciously replaced the megafauna, mostly through prescribed burning; now they are also extinct, at least in the wild).

The grizzly is not an American original: it is the European Brown Bear, and it migrated into North America as a replacement species… as a sort of companion to humans. Differently from the huge Cave Bear, ferociously extinguished by Neanderthals 50,000 years ago, the grizzly is much more human compatible, and can be readily tamed. Brown Bears and Wolves were extirpated from Western Europe using government reward money and poison, in the 19C and 20C. Now they are coming back, wolves on their own, brown bears through reintroduction programs (although locals often assassinate them). In a country such as Slovenia, large brown bear populations thrive, in cooperation with humans (who feed them sometimes).

One should strive to reintroduce American megafauna, starting with the more innocuous species (and that includes the grizzly). By the way, I have run and hiked in grizzly country (Alaska), with a huge bear pepper spray cannister at the ready. I nearly used the cannister on a charging moose (with her calf which was as big as a horse). The calf slipped off, and I eluded the mom through a thicket of very closely spaced tough trees. But I had my finger on the trigger, safety off. Moose attack more humans than grizzlies and wolves combined (although a bear attack is more dangerous). In any case, in the US, stinging insects kill around 100, deer around 200 (mostly through car collisions), and lightning around three dozen people, per year.

As it is, I run and hike a lot in California wilderness, out of rescue range. I generally try to stay aware of where and when I could come across bears, lions and rattlers. My last close call with a large rattlesnake, up a mountain slope, was partly due to hubris and not realizing I was moving in dangerous terrain. Fortunately I heard the slithering just in time. Dangerous animals make us aware of nature in its full glory, and the real nature of the human condition. They keep us more honest with what is real, what humanity is all about.

And that should be the primordial sense.

Patrice Ayme


Dangerous loitering criminal, said the Norwegian authorities about Walrus Freya.

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8 Responses to “California Grizzly: Rewilding Is A Moral Duty.”

  1. Rowan Says:

    Best reply so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ucbear Says:

    I agree that we have a moral duty to re-wild our ecosystem. Sadly, people will never leave the Grizzly Bear alone. People are more of a danger to the bear than the bear is to people. Think of how many hunters will go after those Grizzly Bears and claim self defense id they are caught?

    Remember Cecil the Lion? The most treasured Lion wasn’t even safe in his reserve and an American killed him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. YahooThom Says:

    God help us! There is no need for grizzlies in California. You don’t even have the land to build homes for the homeless.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul Handover Says:

    As I shall be writing this coming Tuesday, David Attenborough states that the only chance for this planet, and the countless millions species, human and natural, that depend on it, is through rewilding. I would like to quote a little from this latest post, Patrice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Quote as much as you want, dear Paul! That’s the whole idea! Spread the goodness!
      The case for rewilding is even stronger than I made it. I will look forward your essay, Paul! I love Sir David A.


  5. sometimes_dismayed Says:

    You should volunteer to be in the first group of people used to teach grizzlies how to avoid people.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Bears should be instructed while young. “Avoiding people” although preferable, is not necessary, just teaching the wildlife respect for people (and reciprocally).

      I have experience with bears in the wild, by the way. I have encountered bears many times, unarmed, alone and typically running. It happens to me at least once a year. Once I ran, at the end of a half mile long slab, into the forest, to find myself the object of an inquiry by two cubs while mom and dad disapproved very loudly. The situation was extremely dangerous, all the more as the bears were above. I was stunned that the bears were in a family unit (they are not supposed to).

      I have also fished next to the forbidden zone at the core of Denali Nat. Park, until a huge grizzly came over for dinner… I once confronted a young bear in a kitchen, and so on. I was also charged once by sheer malevolence (I was carrying twenty pounds of raw chicken in my backpack; and the bear had just attacked a dozen terrified hikers who surrendered their backpacks)… I fought back by hitting the bear with a stone. The bear, a greedy, inexperienced youngish male, fled. It then severely wounded a grandmother, and was tracked and killed by Park rangers…

      Another time, hiking silently at 9pm in July with my spouse, a bear disguised as a carpet jumped us, having apparently mistaken us for deer. He was then furious…

      We have much more advanced tech now than even a decade ago. Trained bears could be tracked 24/7/365…


  6. Sir David Attenborough. – Learning from Dogs Says:

    […] Patrice Ayme last Sunday wrote about rewilding: California Grizzly: Rewilding Is A Moral Duty. In the latter half of that essay, he wrote: “One should strive to reintroduce American […]


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