The Family Tree
In the 1800s, seeing a grizzly in the mountains above Napa Valley would have been as common as seeing a deer. Then, grizzlies were as numerous in Cali-fornia as they are in Alaska. Vivid accounts of human maulings and bull-and-bear fights mingled legend and fact. The monstrous and ferocious grizzlies of California were described as weighing anywhere from several hundred to several thousand pounds. During the mid-1880s, although big game hunters arrived, along with the cattlemen, sheep men, the grizzly was a predator worthy of extermination. As the wilderness of the Sierras and the coastal thickets diminished in size from the encroachment of civilizations, California grizzlies were killed by the thousands. Sadly, although California’s state emblem is the Great Golden Bear, no wild grizzly has been seen since 1922.
Things are different now. Ancient trees have been cut down and vineyards now grow in there stead. The scream of the hawk once solitary and piercing, was now quickly joined by the crow of someone’s backyard rooster. True, many of the forests of pine and fir, Manzanita and oak remain, overgrown and impenetrable. But there are no deer paths, no deer. So much of the magic is gone.