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SCV Outdoor Report: What Bear?

By: Wendy Langhans



On June 18, 1860, Englishman William Tallack rode through the San Francisquito Pass on the Butterfield Overland Mail stage.  As he later recounted his journey, he wrote:


“Half way through it we had a wash and a good breakfast at a ranch, where we were warned that a hunter had that morning shot a bear a little lower down the valley, that the animal had only been wounded, and had retired amongst the trees and rocks close to our route, whence he might possibly make his appearance on our passing by. To the disappointment of the passengers, nothing was seen of him.”


But was Tallack writing about a black bear (Ursus americanus californiensis), or a grizzly bear?  I suspect it was a grizzly bear, because black bears are not native to southern California.  They were excluded (or at least limited) by the California grizzly bear (Ursus arctos californicus).  In a head-to-head competition between a 400 lb. black bear and a 900 lb. grizzly, guess who wins?


Last week, almost 148 years later, received a phone call from Jessie Sheldon, one of our listeners from Saugus.  She told me that she had spotted a bear in the wash.  Oh cool! I was so tempted to hop in my car and head over for a look, even though I knew that was exactly the wrong thing to do.  But I resisted the impulse and did the right thing, which was to call it in.


Was Jesse talking about a black bear or a grizzly bear?  I’m pretty sure she saw a black bear, because last grizzly bear in southern California was shot and killed in 1916 near Sunland.  And when the grizzlies were gone, the black bears moved in. 


As the old saying goes, “Nature abhors a vacuum.”



(1) For more information about Tallack’s journey, go to


 (2) For the record, there are two Fish and Game numbers you can use.  The first is our local office of the California Department of Fish and Game, 858-467-4201, which is available M-F from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The second is Fish and Game’s 24-hour dispatch at 916-445-0045.


Upcoming Outdoor Events: 


Saturday, June 21, 8-10 AM.  Bird Hike at Towsley Canyon. 

For directions go to

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


Saturday, June 28, and every Wednesday, 8:00 am.  Trail Maintenance Volunteers at Towsley Canyon.

Come join our trail maintenance volunteers for camaraderie and a heart-thumping workout.  For more information call Steve Ioerger at 661-291-1565 or

Sponsored by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.


For the complete MRCA hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to


SCV Outdoor Report: What Bear?

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