Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bears Like Bacon

1889, Official Map of Santa Cruz County,
A. J. [Andrew Jackson] Hatch
1877: C. C. [Charles Campbell] Rodgers, founder of the Mountain Echo newspaper published in Boulder Creek, had an encounter with a mother grizzly and her two cubs. Rodgers was living on his homestead at the source of Boulder Creek at Bull’s Spring (also known as Bull Springs). Bull’s Spring is close to Highway 236 on the edge of Big Basin State Park and on the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail.

Headwaters of Boulder Creek at Bull's Spring, with
a small concrete dam through which the creek flows.

He had not yet built his cabin on the land and so slept on the ground under the stars. Around sunrise one morning he awoke to find a large female grizzly eating his discarded bacon rinds just a few feet from the end of his bed, with two cubs a little further away. Rodgers and the bear looked at each other for a brief time - that seemed like an eternity to the former. He then sprung to his feet and without stopping to dress he “clasped the nearest tan-oak in a loving embrace” and made a desperate attempt to climb it. Fortunately, for Rodgers, the bear gave a disgruntled growl and sidled slowly off into the nearby brush.

The area has since been logged.
That very same day Rodgers constructed a scaffold, in a “bunch of redwoods” well up from the ground, and used it to sleep on until he had completed his cabin. He bored holes in a redwood into which he drove wooden pins so as to make a ladder up which he could climb to the scaffold high in the tree.

In October the same year, C. C. Rodgers had yet another encounter. The Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel reported:

“On the head of Boulder Creek, last week, C. C. Rodgers, while ascending a trail, found himself in the rear of a couple of grizzly cubs. They hurried along, a few feet apart, the hunter getting his Henry rifle in order to give them a salute. Hearing the pattering of feet behind him, he turned his head and beheld mother bruin, open mouthed, long-haired and shaggy, and apparently as large as an elephant. Thinking that there might be something in the bushes that he wanted he turned aside, breaking one side of his bridle in doing so. Held by one rein around and around swung his terrified animal, and the grizzly kings of the forest, together and satisfied that neither was hurt, moved off at their leisure, apparently indifferent to the presence of the man with the broken bridle.”

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Soquel Bear

October 23, 1978, Santa Cruz Sentinel,
1978: Valerie Norkoli remembers a bear in the late 1970s:
"It was in the Soquel Hills less then a 1/4 mile from my house. It mauled our neighbors little wiener dog. It was relocated. I was about 10 and was able to view it after they tranquilizer it."1

1. Accessed July 25, 2017:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hunting and Trapping

Initially, grizzlies were not hunted for food, but for their skins, for the thrill, and because of their threat to livestock.

Grizzly Bear Trap
Grizzly Bear Trap
from The Newhouse Trappers Guide, 1914.
Before the introduction of the repeating rifle, killing a grizzly with a shot gun was very difficult. It was rare that a single bullet would suffice, so the best option was to trap and then kill the animal.

Bayard Taylor, 1849: "We had no other arms than pistols and knives and no horses of sufficient fleetness to have ventured an attack with safety; so we passed on with many a wistful and lingering look, for the gray hide of one of those huge beasts would have been a trophy well worth the capture."

Strychnine LabelBesides traps, poisons, such as strychnine and phosphorus, were also used. Often a grizzly would not eat an entire animal in one sitting but come back the next day to finish it off.
The left remains would be poisoned in anticipation of the grizzly’s return. See the blog post: Treed by a Dead Bear.

Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel,1872: "Some twenty [bears] have been killed in this county recently, in that way. Mr Miller returned to his ranch yesterday with four bottles of strychnine to cure bear meat, he having previously fought three bears from a tree in his oat field, and had only an ax to keep the old she bear and her cubs from climbing the tree."

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup Label
Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel, 1872: "Varments of the grizzly tribe are peculiar, and the best medicine we can think of is Mrs. Winlow’s soothing syrup, especially for the cubs, when they set up that hideous howl so graphically described. For the older ones, Galena pills [lead shot] – 16 to the pound – from Dr. Henry’s repeater or the Parker gun with good strong powder would no doubt be potent, but in case of failure, try strychnine."

Mrs. Winslow’s syrup contained morphine and was responsible for the drug addition and death from overdose of countless infants and children.

A Text Book for the Professional Teacher, 1910: "The Food Department of the United States has established a list of medical preparations, “soothing syrups,” which are referred to as “baby-killers.” The use of this class of products is certainly to be condemned, and the list as given by the United States Government chemists includes the following preparations: Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup (morphine sulfate)."   

Gatling Gun versus a Bear!

W. H. Dool Meat Market Advertisment
Boulder Blast, October 19, 1895
1899:  In December 1899, butcher William (Billy) H. Dool of Boulder Creek sent a 300 pound black bear to the Popular Meat Market in Santa Cruz. The bear had been shot by Henry L. Middleton in the Big Basin.

Henry Middleton had acquired a Gatling gun and wanting to “experiment” with it took it to a place near his lumber mill in the Big Basin. The gun, a machine gun that consists of multiple barrels revolving around a central axis and is capable of being fired at a rapid rate, had been “captured” from the Filipinos.

The Gatling Gun,
for Service Ashore & Afloat,
William B. Franklin, 1874
(The Philippine-American War ran from Feb 1899 to Jul 1902. Middleton had just been awarded a contract by the US government to supply troops at Manila with 3000 tons of hay.)

He fired the gun and then saw a large bear approaching. Middleton had long wanted to kill a bear and saw this as his opportunity.

The bear came running toward the gun, Middleton fired.

"Bruin saw he had no business with the Mayor of Boulder Creek, and decided that the Big Basin was too small to hold both. As the bear turned to run another shot was fired with fatal effect."

Middleton, with the assistance of several men, brought the bear to Dool's Meat Market in Boulder Creek.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Treed by a Dead Bear

1872: Near the White House Dairy, on Steele's ranch, near Pigeon Point, a monster grizzly bear had killed a cow. Mr. B[arzilla] M. Scofield, the owner of the cow, placed a bucket of syrup, well poisoned with strychnine, near the place where the cow had been killed.

The next night the bear came back and ate the syrup and died on the spot.

In the morning a group of people, including a Chris Coffin, a teamster, approached the spot. They saw the bear quietly sleeping near the place where the poison had been left. The whole party were seized with fright that they were so close to a such a  huge a monster, (he was about twelve hundred pounds) and Chris, hurriedly climbed a tree near by, while the rest of them made their escape, running as fast as they could, thinking the bear was at their heels.

Hours passed and the bear failed to wake up. Chris first ventured a whistle, but that did not wake him so then he gave a huge bark, like a dog, this did not move him. 

So Chris came to the conclusion that the bear had eaten too much and was very fast asleep. So he slowly climbed down.

How do you think he felt on finding that the bear was dead, not asleep after all, after spending so long in the tree?

As reported by the Santa Cruz Weekly Sentinel: "Chris. Says [sic] the balance of the company have not returned yet, so badly were they frightened at the sight of the dead bear."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Paul Sweet’s Escape

Circa 1850s: There are several versions of this story that have been recounted over the years. This is as told by Richard C. Kirby, local tanner and husband of libertarian Georgiana Bruce Kirby, to Caroline H. Dall and published by her in My First Holiday, 1881:

"We drove by the old tannery once kept by Paul Sweet. When Mr. K. first came to it, great grizzly bears, each weighing from eight hundred to a thousand pounds, used to steal into the cattle-yard every night. On one occasion one of these creatures caught a calf by the nape of the neck, and leaped a tall fence. A revolver was fired, but the animal dropped the dead calf and escaped. The next day they followed the bear with hounds, and took him.

Paul Sweet and his wife Margarita
Paul Sweet and his wife Margarita,
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
One day Paul met a grizzly bear with cubs, in the wood. She caught him by the waistband, plunged into a hollow, dug a large hole in the sand, and buried Paul out of sight. After a while the tanner worked his way up to the surface, but Mistress Grizzly was watching. She darted forward, and snugly tucked him in with two or three strokes of her big paw. This time Paul was more wary. The sand was loose, and after the creature had gone off to her cubs, he crawled home entirely unhurt."

You can read more about Paul Sweet by clicking here.

Casa del Ursa - Rancho del Oso

In 1864, Waddell’s Creek was also known as Casa del Ursa. Ursa being Latin for Bear, Casa being Cottage. It was named for the large number of grizzlies that lived in the area.

"Waddell’s Mill – W. W. Waddell & Co. of Santa Cruz have been engaged, for more than two years last past in the extensive preparations for manufacturing lumber. Their situation is below New Year’s Point (punta den ano nueve) on the Casa del Ursa, more familiarly known as Waddell’s creek."

Grizzly at the Rancho del Oso Nature & History Center
Grizzly at the Rancho del Oso
Nature & History Center
Later it became Rancho Del Oso (Spanish for Bear Ranch) and is now part of Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The Rancho del Oso Nature and History Center has on display a grizzly bear that was shot with a bow and arrow in the Yellowstone area by Arthur Young on a special expedition with Saxton Pope to secure a group of grizzlies for display at the California Academy of Sciences in 1920.

The bear weighed nearly 1000 pounds when it was shot and skinned. The kill was documented in the book Hunting with the Bow and Arrow by Saxton Pope:

"Next day, just at sunset, we got our first view of the great bear of Dunraven Pass. He was coming down a distant canyon trail. He looked like a giant in the twilight. With long swinging strides he threw himself impetuously down the mountainside. Great power was in every movement. He was magnificent!"

"... the monster grizzly was romping back and forth in the shaded forest not more than sixty-five yards away. With deep booming growls like distant thunder, he voiced his anger and intent to kill. As he flitted between the shadows of the trees, the moonlight glinted on his massive body; he was enormous.

Young discharged three arrows at him. I shot two. We should have landed, he was so large. But he galloped off and I saw my last arrow at the point blank range of seventy-five yards, fall between his legs. He was gone. We thought we had missed the beast and grief descended heavy upon us. The thought of all the weary days and nights of hunting and waiting, and now to have lost him, was very painful."

Archer Brings Down 4 Grizzlies 1920 News Article
San Francisco Chronicle,
July 4, 1920
"... We had no idea that we hit the great bear, but just to gather up our shafts, we went over the ground where he had been.

One of Young's arrows was missing! That gave us a thrill; perhaps we had hit him after all! We went further in the direction he had gone; there was a trace of blood.

We trailed him."

"... We let ourselves down the sheer descent, came upon a narrow little ledge, and there below us lay the huge monster on his back, against a boulder, cold and stiff, as dead as Caesar. Our hearts nearly burst with happiness.

Arthur Young Slays the Monarch of the Mountains
From Hunting with Bow and Arrow
by Saxton Pope, 1923
There lay the largest grizzly bear in Wyoming, dead at our feet. His rugged coat was matted with blood. Well back in his chest the arrow wound showed clear. I measured him; twenty-six inches of bear had been pierced through and through. One arrow killed him. He was tremendous. His great wide head; his worn, glistening teeth; his massive arms; his vast, ponderous feet and long curved claws; all were there. He was a wonderful beast. It seemed incredible. I thumped Young on the shoulder: 'My, that was a marvelous shot!'"