The purpose of the California Grizzly Research Network is to promote—through rigorous, interdisciplinary research and outreach—a more informed scholarly and public conversation about the past, present, and potential future of grizzly bears in California.
Prior to the Gold Rush, California was home to as many as ten thousand grizzly bears. Grizzlies roamed throughout the state, from the northwest forest to the edge of the Mojave Desert, and from the High Sierra to the Los Angeles Basin. Native peoples developed rich mythologies about and complex relationships with grizzlies, and early settlers recorded detailed accounts of their interactions with this region's legendary “chaparral bears.” California’s grizzly population plummeted after 1849, due to unregulated hunting, trapping, and poisoning. The last credible sighting of a California grizzly occurred in 1924 near Sequoia National Park. Then they were gone.
For more than 90 years, scholars and storytellers have treated the epic saga of grizzlies in California either as a frontier legend or a cautionary tale. Yet we are now entering a new chapter in the history of California grizzlies. Public interest in grizzlies here has grown, including regular media coverage and even proposals to reintroduce the species. Yet we have few answers to most of the key questions that would be essential to any reintroduction and recovery effort.
In May of 2016, a multidisciplinary group of faculty, students, and fellows based at UC Santa Barbara launched the California Grizzly Study Group, later renamed the California Grizzly Research Network. Our first objective is to develop a community of scholars with the expertise and capacity to answer key historical, scientific, and management questions about grizzlies in California. Our second objective is to advance scholarly knowledge about the reintroduction and recovery of imperiled wildlife. Our third objective is to contribute to a broader discussion about restoration and rewilding in an era of global environmental change.
The California Grizzly Research Network is not an advocacy organization. We do not support any particular policy or management actions for grizzlies or other species. We do, however, believe that rigorous research can help foster more civil and evidence-based democratic decision-making processes, leading to more effective conservation.