Senate Resolutions Calls for 2024 to Be the ‘Year of the California Grizzly Bear’

State Senator John Laird, representing Santa Cruz, has proposed a resolution in the California legislature to designate 2024 as the “Year of the California Grizzly Bear” to honor the 100-year anniversary of the disappearance of California’s state animal.

The last confirmed sighting of a wild grizzly bear in California occurred in Sequoia National Park in the spring of 1924.

“The extirpation of the grizzly bear from California a century ago is the most significant species loss in the state’s history,” said Laird. “The grizzly was ecologically and culturally significant to California, and today, 100 years since its disappearance, it remains an important icon for the state, evident by its place on our state flag and seal. This year more than ever, we should reflect upon its loss and do everything we can to ensure no other native species goes extinct under our watch.”

Senate Resolution 75, introduced with support from the California Grizzly Alliance and various Native American tribes such as the Yurok, Tule River, and Tejon tribes, aims to raise awareness about the loss of grizzly bears and other elements of the state’s unique biodiversity.

While not advocating for grizzly bear reintroduction, the resolution encourages public engagement in conservation efforts and educational programs to protect and restore California’s wildlife. Tribal leaders expressed support for recognizing the cultural significance of the grizzly bear and fostering collaboration for habitat restoration.

“The Yurok Tribe strongly supports Senator Laird’s resolution recognizing the California grizzly,” said Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James. “We hope the state’s landscape will one day recover enough to support this culturally and ecologically invaluable species. We know from our reintroduction of the California condor that it will take decades of hard work and collaboration.”

Recent research has debunked misconceptions about California grizzlies, revealing them to be typical brown bears with a primarily vegetarian diet. Despite their historical population of 10,000 in California, hunting led to their near-extinction, with only about 2,000 remaining in the lower 48 states.

“In California, grizzlies are gone not because of habitat loss but because people simply killed them all,” said Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity. “If grizzlies are to meaningfully recover in the lower 48 states, we need to seriously consider bringing them back to areas where good habitat still remains. I truly believe grizzly bears can and should have a future in California.”

A Senate vote on the resolution is expected in April.

Separately, the California Fish and Game Commission is expected to commemorate the grizzly centennial with presentations and discussions on the past and potential future of grizzly bears in California at its April 18 meeting.

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