The California Grizzly Bear (Ursus californicus) was designated official State Animal in 1953. Although carrying a unique name, based on DNA testing this bear is believed to be of the same species as the Grizzly or Brown Bear of North American and Eurasia.


Before dying out in California, this largest and most powerful of carnivores thrived in the great valleys and low mountains of the state, probably in greater numbers than anywhere else in the United States. As humans began to populate California, the grizzly stood its ground, refusing to retreat in the face of advancing civilization. It killed livestock and interfered with settlers. Less than 75 years after the discovery of gold, every grizzly bear in California had been tracked down and killed. The last one was killed in Tulare County in August 1922.


Ironically, despite hunting this bear to extinction in the state, the Bear Flag was adopted as the State Flag by the State Legislature in 1911. The flag had originally flown in 1846 during a rebellion against Mexico, the authority in California at the time.