The few places you'll find grizzly bears in California include the San Francisco zoo and our state flag: Fewer than 75 years after gold was first discovered in California, the bear was eradicated from the state, as the Valley Center History Museum writes. The last known specimen was shot in 1924.
That's a shame, says the Center for Biological Diversity. The group suggests that California is now ready to bring back its symbol, campaigning to reintroduce grizzlies into remote areas of the state.
Critics like the state's wildlife agency find the idea ridiculous, as the East Bay Times reports, and a number of citizens the paper spoke with appeared viscerally disturbed by the prospect. So, in order to grow support for their controversial proposal, the Center started with an ad campaign, one featuring candidates to replace the current bear on the California flag, would-be symbols of he state ranging from yogis to realtors to the large, hirsute gay male archetype known colloquially as "bears."
"The grizzly bear is an icon in California history," conservation advocate Jeff Miller tells the EBT. "There are serious issues to be addressed with reintroduction, but this idea should not be dismissed out of hand because of emotion." While there are no such bears in California, the contiguous US is home to the creatures, with an estimated 1,400 to 1,700 roaming remote parts of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and possibly Washington State — nothing compared to the estimated 50,000 that once inhabited the area.
A state Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson, Jordan Traverso, expressed her agency's concern to the publication. "We already have many problems with conflicts with wildlife," she said. "I cannot foresee us taking on the burden and extra cost of something like this." In addition to the ad campaign, the Center for Biological Diversity is pushing a petition, launched in 2014, for the department's support.
The Center for Biological Diversity clarifies that it isn't *really* hoping to put a new California stock character on the state flag, like the ridiculous one below. "Of course, we like having the grizzly bear on the flag," they write, "It’s just time to bring it back to California too. Returning these incredible animals to remote portions of the state would be a key step in rewilding parts of California and saving one of America’s most iconic animals." In that vein, can we send types like this person off to the wilds of California?