Wednesday, January 11, 2017

California Indian Bear Hunting

In his book The Ohlone Way, author Malcolm Margolin tells the story of a bear hunt as described by a descendant of the Yokut people, neighbors of the Ohlone:

Yokut Indians, neighbors of the Ohlone,
hunting on the bay of San Francisco.
Drawn by Louis Choris in 1815
"… twelve men each with bow and arrows started for the bear’s cave.…[they] arranged a semi-circle of stakes, driving them into the ground in front of the cave. They took shooting positions behind these. Holoansi [the first runner] went to the cave entrance to lure the bear …"

In the book Sixty Years in California, William Heath Davis describes a bear hunt during the Mission era:

"The Indians of California used artfully constructed traps for bears. They dug a large hole, about five or six feet deep, directly under the branch of a tree, covered it with brush and a light coating of earth, and made it all smooth on top. From the branch would be suspended a quarter of beef. Bruin would scent the meat, and, approaching without suspicion, would fall headlong into the pit. Shooting with bow and arrows, the Indian, having come out of his place of concealment, would presently kill the bear."

Ohlone and Grizzlies

Prior to 1769, the Ohlone were the only peoples to inhabit the Santa Cruz area. Their total population once numbered 10,000 or more with a least 600 villages in and around Santa Cruz. Village populations ranged from 50 to 500. In the smaller seasonal villages, the villagers would take advantage of seasonal sources of food, such as game, fruits, and nuts.

Many foods were favorites of both the Ohlone and grizzlies. Acorns, one of a grizzly's favorite foods, was a staple food for the Ohlone. It likely resulted in confrontations during the acorn harvest season or a grizzly raid on a village acorn storage site. Other foods they both ate included seeds, berries, roots, deer, fish, and whale. 

In 1776, while in what is now San Mateo County, the second Anza Expedition encountered, and killed, a large grizzly. Father Font wrote in his diary:

"There are many of these beasts in that country, and they often attack and do damage to the Indians when they go to hunt, of which I saw many horrible examples."

In the book Three Years in California [1846-1849], Walter Colton describes the grizzly:

"Nature has thrown over him [the grizzly] a coat of mail, soft indeed, but impervious to the storm and arrow of the Indian."

Archaeologist Mark Hylkema:

"…grizzly bear remains [are found] in the archaeological sites, and it is interesting to recognize that these large semi-aggressive omnivores co-existed with native people for millennia. The skins were used by high status men and various membership societies used them as totems."

"…[grizzly remains are] not infrequently seen as ornament and display among human burials. They occur as canine teeth pendants with drilled apertures for stringing, and claw necklaces." 

In 1776, while on the San Francisco Peninsula, Father Font described bear skin clothing in his diary:

"Among the men I saw a few with a little cape like a doublet reaching to the waist and made of bear skin, and by this mark of distinction I learned that these were the owners or masters of the launches."

Grizzly Bear Claw
Collection of the Los Altos History Museum
This California grizzly bear claw was found in a Los Gatos cave by Albert Thirkell. It is not known what date it was found.

It was given to Los Altos Hills amateur historian Florence Fava around 1970. She wrote:

“This is but one of several which made up a necklace which crumbled when removed from the cave it was found in.”

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Recent Black Bear Sightings

1999: In August, County sheriff’s deputy Larry Roland saw a bear running across Lompico Road. “It ran down from the hillside on the left right in front of me and down into the creek,” Roland said.

Also in 1999, near Felton Nancy McFarlane reported a glimpse of what she thought could be a bear. A follow-up search by field scout Rich Coats discovered bear scat near Graham Hill Road. Click here for examples of black bear scat.

2001: A bear was hit and killed by a car on Skyline Boulevard near the Crystal Springs Watershed in June. Vicki Sliwa saw the bear lying in the road. “It was a Sunday afternoon, driving south on Skyline, and then suddenly, there it was, a bear lying in a heap on the gravel shoulder,” Sliwa said. “Traffic was light, but everybody was slowing down to look at it.”

By the time CalTrans and the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) arrived, the bear was gone. A DFG spokesman said that it was likely a passing driver illegally picked up the animal.

2008: Two sightings of black bears in the Santa Cruz Mountains were reported; one at Rancho San Antonio in the Los Altos Hills, and the other along Skyline Boulevard near Sanborn-Skyline County Park and Castle Rock State Park. 

The bear at Rancho San Antonio was spotted by a senior couple who saw the bear cross Rogue Valley Trail about a third of a mile east of the park’s pond. The other, along Skyline, was reported by two hikers.

A Bear or a Bull?

1902: In 1902, the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper re-published a rather confusing story from the San Jose Mercury. A San Jose butcher, Charles Thomspon, hung a side of meat in his shop and to it attached a sign saying “Bear.” To Charles Wampach he admitted that the bear had been caught in the Big Basin by Andrew P. Hill.

Soon half a dozen butchers from around town gathered at the shop to admire the “fine specimen.” Then Thompson retracted his story, saying no it is not a bear but a calf. The butchers didn’t buy the story - they knew the difference between bear and beef! So Wampach sought out Hill for clarification.

Hill confirmed the story, and stated that the bear had "come at me" while he was photographing in the Big Basin and that he and John Richards, who was accompanying him, killed the bear together.

The story implies that Thompson, the butcher, was deliberately staging a joke and that Hill somehow guessed this and followed along with the pretense.

Perhaps it would not have been prudent to be advertising the fact that there were bears in the Big Basin at the same time as one was advocating it as a State Park. Big Basin became a State Park in 1902, second only to Yosemite which had by then become a National Park. Hill was the highly influential, official artist of the Sempervirens Club, the club that was so actively working to petition for the establishment of the park.

Later, Hill ran a photography and art studio in Big Basin Redwoods State Park. When his health was failing in 1922, he advertised for someone to assist him. Forest Roy Fulmer applied for the position.

He worked closely with Hill over the next few months until Hill’s death. Fulmer took over the studio. One of the multitudes of postcards published by Fulmer’s Studio depicts a photograph taken by Hill of the Grandmother Tree. On the back it states, “This tree is hollow at the base. A bear was killed in this tree about 1900.”

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rancho Punta del Año Nuevo

Isaac Chapman Steel,
The History of San Mateo County, California,
1883, B. F. Alley Publisher
1867: Once Rancho Punta del Año Nuevo, of which a part became the Isaac Steele Dairy Ranch, abounded with grizzlies. The Ranch, now part of Año Nuevo State Park, is located 21 miles north of Santa Cruz and is adjacent to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. An 1867 encounter with a grizzly above the garden at Isaac Steel’s home, Green Oaks, was chronicled in À La California by Col. Albert S. Evans, 1873: 

"Mr. Steele pointed out where a fearful scene was enacted just above his garden in 1867. An old she-bear came down with her two cubs in the day-time and seized a hog. Two men employed on the ranch, both Portuguese, started to rescue the hog. One had a gun, the other only a garden mattock. They found her by the fence eating the hog, and yelled at her to drive her away. She accepted the challenge, and with a growl dashed over the fence and after them. The man with the gun pointed it full-cocked at her head, but, as he afterward admitted, when he felt her hot breath in his face, became demoralized, dropped the weapon and jumped over the fence. His companion
Included in the National Register Nomination Form, 1976
Courtesy San Mateo County Historical Association
followed his example, and they jumped back and forth for some minutes with the enraged brute in close pursuit. At length the man who had the mattock started to run across the field toward the house; but the bear caught him, threw him down, bit him through the thigh, and then started after the other assailant. Had the wounded man feigned death he would have been saved; but not understanding grizzly fighting, he jumped up and began shouting for help. At this she turned upon him more infuriated than ever, and, seizing him by the side, literally tore him in pieces, killing him instantly. The other man escaped. The next morning the bear, bear-like, returned to finish the hog, and was shot by a party lying in wait for her."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The True Story of William Waddell

1875: On Friday October 1, William Waddell and John Bradley went deer hunting in the gulches behind Waddell's mill. After crossing Steele Gulch they parted, Waddell to the right, Bradley to the left. Waddell found the remains of a deer that he thought had been taken by a mountain lion. His dog caught a scent which it followed up a ravine. The dog began barking then moments later it came bounding towards Waddell pursued by a grizzly.

The bear attacked Waddell in the thigh. The dog immediately attacked the bear which let go of Waddell to again pursue the dog. The two disappeared in the distance. Waddell fired his gun to alert Bradley to his crippled situation. Bradley found Waddell with his thigh badly lacerated and bruised. 
Dr. Charles L. Anderson

Waddell was taken home by horse and treated by Dr. Charles Anderson who later stated that his wounds “were severe but under ordinary circumstances would not be considered serious.”

Waddell died six days later of suspected Pyaemia, a form of infection that was almost always fatal before the introduction of antibiotics in the 1930s. 

Site of William Waddell's Mill in Big Basin State Park
William Waddell, who came to California in the early 1850s, was a lumberman who owned and operated a sawmill. He is the namesake of Waddell Beach and Waddell Creek in Rancho Del Oso (Bear Ranch) which is now part of Big Basin State Park.

Grizzly in Big Basin - Too Frightened to Stay

1890: In May 1890, Jacob “Hans” Mandel, a cook at a sawmill near Boulder Creek, and two friends had an encounter with a bear while on a hunting trip in the Big Basin. As the men rested in the evening after the day's work they heard a noise in the brush. On looking around they spotted a huge grizzly bear in the distance. The grizzly saw them and moved towards them "his eyes gleaming like two electric lights."

The men ran for a mile with the grizzly gaining on their heels. They reached a tall climbable tree and took refuge in it just as the grizzly caught up. Unable to reach the men, the grizzly just remained at its base for several hours. Afraid to move, the men stayed in the tree all night on their "uncomfortable perches." In the morning they realized the bear had departed, so they climbed down the tree and "made haste to reach Boulder."

The experience was too much for Hans who promptly resigned as cook to return to the safety of Santa Cruz. This was a great loss to the sawmill crew as Hans was famed for his corn beef hash which was considered "a rare delicacy." And the different ways in which he served mush and milk for breakfast had given him a reputation which made him the "envy of the other chefs in the neighborhood."

Billy Bruin Jr.

1891: In the spring of 1891, a two month old grizzly cub was captured on Mountain Charley's ranch in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Billy Bruin, Jr. was taken to the ranch of a Dr. Charles C. O'Donnell at Glen Ellen in Sonoma County. The ranch was an extensive mineral resort along Sonoma Creek.

Six months later Billy returned to Santa Cruz. He had been loaned by Dr. O'Donnell to the Native Sons California Parlor No. 1 to participate in the Admission Day parade through Santa Cruz.

Admission Day Arch 1891
Admission Day Arch, Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz
San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 1891
Santa Cruz, Cal, Admission Day 1888
While in Santa Cruz, Billy visited the offices of the Santa Cruz Surf newspaper and was described as “the most affectionate little fellow in the world and can give a bear’s grin and a bear’s hug in the most approved style, and without the least malice.”

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lion-hearted and Brave Old Dog Saves the Day

1865: On April 16, Ethelbert Harris who lived about twenty miles north of Santa Cruz on the El Jarro Rancho, near Davenport, encountered a grizzly about a mile and a half from his house. His dogs had been “worrying” her, and so she was quite aroused. He raised his rifle to fire at her but it misfired. He tried to strike her with it but tripped and fell. The grizzly pounced on him, lacerating his right leg.

His dog, Towser, “the truest and most faithful friend man ever had” came to his rescue by trying to engage to bear giving Harris the chance to climb a nearby tree. He called off Towser and the other dogs and after about fifteen minutes the bear had departed and, faint from the loss of blood, he climbed down the tree.

Santa Cruz Sentinel,
September 30, 1992
The whole incident was witnessed by his adult son Sandero and by William Cook who were both in the safety of neighboring trees. The two men helped him back to the house and it was hoped that the wound would heal. Unfortunately, it did not and had to be amputated. The leg was buried in a nearby cemetery and a picket fence erected around it.

The Harris family eventually moved to Monterey and the land on which the leg was buried became part of McCrary’s Big Creek Lumber’s holdings.

According to historian Sandy Lydon, it wasn’t until years later, when Donald Clark was researching place names for his books Santa Cruz County Place Names and Monterey County Place Names that he discovered that the rest of Harris was buried in Pleyto Cemetery in South Monterey County.

In July 1992, with the help of the McCrary family, a Harris family reunion was organized at the site of the burial of the leg. “Among the family mementos brought for display were the barrel of the rifle that had misfired on that fateful day and one of the peg legs Harris wore as a result of it.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Too Close of an Encounter

1854: Mountain Charley's neighbor, Lyman J. Burrell, had an encounter with a mother and her cub. His wife, Clarissa, wrote to her sister about the experience:

Lyman J. Burrell
"Last saturday afternoon Mr. Burrell and Birney were making a fence along the farther side of the garden a little before sundown they heard a great noise among the hogs that were feeding upon the carcass of a dead horse on the hill a short distance from them. Mr. B─ said he would go up the hill and see what was the disturbance he [sic] jumped over the fence with his ax in his hand and proceeded a few steps up the hill, when he was met by an old grizzly bear and her cub coming down at full speed, he brandished his ax at her, and shouted with all his might to frighten her, but they are an animal that never give even half the road, and it is not safe to wound them if you are within their reach, so Mr. Burrell either in turning to let her pass fell or she in her haste to go knocked him over, it was done so quick he could not tell which, as his feet were towards her she gave him one snap with her teeth on the left limb just above the knee leaving one large hole on the lower side and two smaller ones on the upper side of it she then run [sic] three or four steps and turned about to look at him, as she saw he did not follow her, she and her cub bounded off down the hill into the bush with all their might."

“Mountain Charley” McKiernan

1854: From the account told by John Schultheis in 1892.

Charles McKiernan and his friend Taylor were hunting for game on foot in the Santa Cruz Mountains. They successfully killed two deer and, since they had no horses to bring back their kill, they hung them in a tree. Close to sunset they saw a large grizzly feeding in the wild oats. McKiernan saw the bear first and said to Taylor: “See that big bear; now if we can kill him I consider we will have done a good days work.”

They started for a clump of oak trees to get a better shot at the bear and to climb if escape were necessary. It is likely that the blood on their hands from the deer was smelled by the grizzly as they can detect smells over a mile away.

Mountain Charley by Ralph Rambo
The grizzly charged, mouth open. Both men fired but their shots failed to kill the bear who charged at McKiernan. He hit the bear so hard in its ribs with his rifle that it bent the barrel leaving it useless. The bear rose on its haunches and bit McKiernan in the head through his right eye and left temple. He raised his arm to deflect a second bite and the bear bit his lower arm.

The bear then started for Taylor, who ran for his life. Taylor's dog ran between him and the bear. Taylor fell flat in the oats which hid him. The bear ran back towards McKiernan but jumped over him and ran into the woods.

Taylor returned to McKiernan, bandaged his head with his shirt, and left him with his revolver while he went to find a horse to transport McKiernan home.
Taylor reached McKiernan's house just as our storyteller, Schultheis, was arriving. He, Taylor, a gentleman from Tennessee and his man servant, along with a mule and a blanket went back for McKiernan.

Charles McKiernan by Andrew P. Hill
Schultheis then rode down to San Jose to fetch Dr. Bell. It was sunrise before they arrived back at Mountain Charley's. Dr Bell examined the wound a decided to cover the exposed brain with a metal plate.

The plate was fitted but after several weeks the wound did not heal. A visiting doctor from Santa Cruz examined McKiernan and advised removal of the plate which, having not been pure metal, had turned black and poisoned the wound.

After this the wound did heal but McKiernan suffered terrible pains. It wasn't until several years later, after consulting with a group of physicians, that the wound was reopened. The cause of the pain was discovered to be a clump of hair.

Osage City Free Press July 11, 1879
Though disfigured for life, McKiernan lived for 38 years after the gruesome attack.

Black Bears in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Occasionally, black bears were encountered in the Santa Cruz Mountains, perhaps in part as a result of the declining grizzly population.

1890: An Italian who worked as a "swamper" trimming felled trees into logs for a sawmill at the summit had a lively encounter with a black bear. Macaroni, as he was called, as his real name was too difficult to pronounce, borrowed a gun and “went up the canyon to shoot something.”

He disturbed a black bear that was taking a nap. After shooting at the bear, but only slightly injuring it, he found he had to run for his life. Realizing he would lose a straight race, he dodged round a large redwood, the bear dodged too. So began a race around the tree that by accounts lasted several hours.

Santa Cruz Sentinel: "At last, he remembered he had a gun in his hand and managed to load it, made a desperate spurt to catch up with the bear, and shot it in the back."

Two of the boys who went back with Macaroni to bring the dead bear in, declared that the Italian and bruin had worn a well-beaten track around the redwood. The bear weighed a little over 200 pounds. 

1899:  In December 1899, butcher W. 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 Middleton in the Big Basin.

Middleton had “captured” a Gatling gun “from the Filipinos” and wanting to “experiment” with it took it to a place near his mill. He fired a single shot and saw a bear approaching. Middleton had long wanted to kill a bear and saw this as his opportunity. So, as the bear came running towards him, he fired a shot which entered the bear's head.

Santa Cruz Evening Sentinel: "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."

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Saratoga Bear

1979: In July, first one then two bears, possibly a mother and cub, were spotted several times in the Red Hill Road area of Saratoga. They enjoyed the honey from some hives belonging to Joseph Koscis on Peach Hill Road.

One, a youngster estimated between 150 and 200 lb from his paw print imprints in the ground, was chased up a tree by four dogs. When the dogs were called off the bear disappeared into the woods.

Department of Fish and Game wardens baited live traps and the bear(s) enjoyed the offerings but somehow escaped. Another two traps were set with honey, plums, tuna, cat food, strawberry jam, and goose food. This time one of the bears, estimated between 300 and 400 lb, was captured and transported to the Santa Lucia Mountains in Los Padres National Forest. Since the bear was “a little upset” Warden Dennis Baldwin said he’d wait a while before matching its paw print to ones taken on the Koscis property.

Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 29, 1979: "Although the bear is believed to be a “local” – one from the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains – the animal will be lifted, still inside the cage, onto a truck, and transported southward [to] a remote area of the Los Padres National Forest for release there."

Courtesy the Saratoga Historical Foundation Collection
In August, the Saratoga City council unanimously adopted a resolution proclaiming the fourth Saturday of each July as “Saratoga Bear Day.”

A Bear on a Lark

He wanted to see the sights, but was not allowed.

It has often been mistakenly said that only grizzlies, not black bears, lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But as the grizzly population declined, black bears became more prevalent.

In September 1885, bear tracks were noticed on the lands of Davis and Cowell. It was thought that there were three bears; the size of one print was said to measure 13 by 6-1/4 inches. 

Big Tree Station, The J. Paul Getty Museum
Open Content Program
Hunters came down from San Francisco with a variety of weapons, from a bowie knife to a small Gatling gun. They spent several days scouting the area and camping with the Bangos at Big Trees, now Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. 

The San Francisco Call reported: "A party of hunters returned from the Santa Cruz mountains Thursday, arriving by the narrow gauge route, at the foot of Market street. They had been on a hunt for "big game," and that they had met with glowing success was evident from the spoils of the chase which they bought with them."

They had brought with them, on the train from Felton, three black bears. Two they had killed, but one, a feisty young one, was brought back alive.  

The young bear, who had entertained the group at the camp for several days and had become "very tame," was muzzled and was held "a not unwilling" captive by means of a long chain. He was reportedly not homesick for his mountain home and "displayed a playful disposition."

As the hunters saw to their baggage they secured the bear's chain to a pole. Bruin, however, managed to escape his pole and first decided to explore the railroad depot ticket window, much to the surprise of the ticket-master who was "astonished when he saw a long snout backed by a hairy head and shoulders, inserted in his window." As the bear made a "playful" punch with is paw towards him, as if he wanted to "shake hands," the ticket-master quickly shut the window with a bang. 

Disgruntled the bear then decided to investigate the Market Street cable car system where he encountered a huge Newfoundland dog. The dog, barking and growling, ran up to the bear who with a smack of his paw sent the poor dog rolling down the wharf. 

His hunters, who intended to keep bruin for a pet, soon caught up with him, and once again he became their captive. This made poor bruin very grumpy, a characteristic he continued to display throughout his visit to the wharf.

Perhaps the Redwood group of trees known as the "Bear's Den" on the Redwood Loop Trail at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, the site of Camp Bango, was named for this unlucky black bear. 

Not the Last Grizzly in the Santa Cruz Mountains

1885: In June 1885, a grizzly entered the yard of Sanford Blodgett on Ben Lomond Mountain, now Bonny Doon, and stole a hog. His son Orrin prepared to give the bear a "warm reception" should he return, which he did a few days later.

As the bear was clearing off the dirt with which he had buried the hog, Orrin, with a wagon bolt in his gun pulled the trigger and the bolt struck the bear in the eye killing him instantly. The 600 pound grizzly was brought to Chase's market in Santa Cruz and hung on exhibition prior to being cut up. Steaks from the bear were enjoyed by members of the Santa Cruz Sentinel staff.

Years later, in 1931, Orrin related the story in a letter to Walter Welch. He recalled selling the meat for ten cents per pound

California Fish and Game: "I didn't save any part of the bear, for which I have since been sorry, as it proved to be the last grizzly killed in this section."

Unfortunately, this sentence has been misinterpreted and most authoritative works refer to this bear as the last grizzly in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Orrin used the word section, as in a measure of land, where a section is one of the 36 numbered subdivisions, each one square mile, or 640 acres, of a township.

For more information on the Public Land Survey System CLICK HERE.