1. BYH Official Poll: What are the things that you should consider before buying herds?
    CLICK HERE!
    (if you are logged in, this notice can be dismissed using the "x" to the top right of the notice)

    Dismiss Notice
  2. A Thief has been caught!!! - Featured Thread
    CLICK HERE!
    (if you are logged in, this notice can be dismissed using the "x" to the top right of the notice)

    Dismiss Notice
  3. Dismiss Notice
  4. BYH Picture of the Week (POW) - Submit your Pics Now !!
    Click HERE!
    (if you are logged in, this notice can be dismissed using the "x" to the top right of the notice)
    Dismiss Notice

Winter, Predators and "No Mind"

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by BrendaMNgri, Sep 8, 2017.

Tags:
  1. Sep 8, 2017
    BrendaMNgri

    BrendaMNgri Loving the herd life

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2016
    Messages:
    133
    Likes Received:
    157
    Trophy Points:
    133
    Location:
    The Big Out There, Northern Nevadaa
    In most parts of the country, with winter's snow and chill comes an increase in predator sightings and activities as they forage and hunt for a decreased food supply. The success or fail rate of many ranches and farms is based on how adaptable the rancher or farmer is willing to be in in times of drought, or extreme weather and winter's increased predator presence. It is a matter of choice.


    Many farmers and ranchers refuse to change old ways that have decreased effectiveness, and their enterprise and livestock suffer for it. Not too many people like to hear this because it does not allow them to point their fingers at problems "out there". First, you must look in the mirror, and point the finger at yourself, and say, "what can I do to make this better?" "Can I change my ways and succeed?" "What am I doing wrong?" - instead of always pointing "out there" and blaming the dogs or others. Put egos on the shelf.


    Successful ranchers and farmers are more willing to "empty their cup" and approach each challenge with what I refer to as "No Mind".


    "NO MIND"


    "No Mind": What does that mean? It means you empty out your "cup" of preconceived notions, habits, opinions. You empty your cup, so that more and new information - and possibly solutions - can come in to it. You empty your mind.


    When your mind is full, just like a tea cup filled to the brim, you can't take in any new thoughts or ideas. A full cup of tea overflows it's boundaries. But nothing more can come in because there is no more room in the cup. But when you approach each situation with No Mind - your cup is empty - and you are open to new ideas, new techniques, solutions, and paths that will lead you to a satisfactory ending for your situation. No Mind simply means you ditch your hardline approach and opinions. You say, "Well, I have not tried this yet. Maybe I should. Maybe it will work."


    That is what "No Mind" is.


    If it works, you are that much closer to a solution.


    If it does not? For the rancher with No Mind, it is never a failure. You simply take a step back and try again, another way. You do not consider yourself a failure because the one thing you tried, did not work. You show more persistence than that. You try again, another way. When you have No Mind, you can do that. When you close your mind to new ideas, you can't, and you suffer for it in the end.


    Think of No Mind as no boundaries. Think of what you could do with no boundaries? Just about nothing would be impossible to you.


    Let me show you a quick picture of a man with No Mind.


    PIA AND ZACA AND THE MAN WITH "NO MIND"


    Although he does not even think of it in those terms, this man is a customer of mine who lives in Minnesota on a 40 acre farm thick with coyote and wolf packs. He has two "retired" older Spanish Mastiff females from me. Zaca Tornado Erben and (Pia) Amaya Dartibo, left my ranch and went to live out their "sunset years" on Chuck Avila's goat farm. But instead of being sleepy lazy old girls (one, Zaca, with HD in one hip!) lounging around the house, getting fat and sassy, what happened instead?


    Not what you would expect. The girls went right to work, like they had done here, and prefer to stay out with Chuck's goats. These old girls have already deterred wolves (!) and coyote packs. They are loved and cared for and get time to sleep in the house where they are handled daily, and groomed and fed. They know they are loved.


    Because Chuck has No Mind, this happened. He did not limit the possibilities with these girls. He did not go into this saying, "Well, it will be this" or "It must be that", or, "Only this will happen". He went in with an empty cup. He approached this experience with No Mind.


    Because he did, his cup has since been filled with wonderful things. These two old girls, are doing a job beyond his - and my - wildest expectations. They are also proving other "LGD experts" who say, "It can only be this or that", to be so sadly wrong.


    There is a constant ongoing argument in the Spanish Mastiff community internationally on what constitutes a "real working Spanish Mastiff" and what does not. Unfortunately by doing this, by setting these boundaries with the breed, many people are closing their minds to the endless opportunities out there to take "show ring bred" Spanish Mastiffs and make them into outstanding guardians of sheep and cattle and goats, such as I have done here for years.


    These are the ones who claim, "If a Spanish Mastiff is too big, or too heavy, or too much skin, or this and that, or came from a show breeder, they will not and cannot work".


    Just recently two new LGD books have been published in America. I have been disappointed in them. As others in the past have written, they are again saying in so many words, those very things said above, about this breed. The books are claiming that "show dogs" are not considered working dogs because "they cannot do it".


    That is where they fail.


    Here is Chuck, with Pia and Zaca, absolutely proving them wrong - extremely and embarrassingly wrong. All because he chose to have No Mind. And because he did, look what he has accomplished: what those "experts" call, "the impossible". Two old, crippled show-lines bred Spanish Mastiffs, one from an International World Champion no less, routing wolves and coyotes like there is no tomorrow, as if they'd come out of the top working breeders in Spain, instead of two respected show kennels in the Czech Republic. Aged, crippled, heavy and "the wrong kind of conformation" to work.


    Really? Don't tell them that.


    This is the power of No Mind, when you have it. Anything - within reason of course - can happen. I am not saying, you can turn a poodle into an LGD because you can't. There are common sense boundaries and limitations to No Mind. You do not foolishly take your Australian Shepherd or Yorkie or any other non-LGD breed, and expect them to guard stock from wolves. Use common sense. With Pia and Zaca, there were sensible - doable - opportunities, and Chuck Avila and emptied his cup - and let it happen. So another winter is here, and his goats are snug, warm and very safe because he chose to open his mind and "risk" using two LGDs other "experts" claim could never do what they are doing. They only speak words. Chuck, Pia and Zaca on the other hand, show you proof of what they can do.


    AUDRY, MIA, "THE POCKETS" and "THE A TEAM": TWO LADIES WITH NO MIND


    Just after posting this, I realized, there were two other dog customers of mine, who I wanted to specifically name, who have the ability to have No Mind. Both are first time LGD owners.


    There is Diana J. in Pasadena, California, who had never owned an LGD breed in her life, and went on to own two Pyrenean Mastiffs from me. This soft spoken woman blossomed with these dogs. She soon took them beyond mere personal pets and companions, and they became therapy dogs, and mascots and keen obedience trained dogs that she could take anywhere, to large events, and public functions. Whether mastering obstacle courses or giving attention and solace to a lonely elder, visiting firemen and policemen on duty, or greeting handicapped children, Mia and Audrey were and are a hit with the public, where ever they go.


    There is Barbara Judd of Froghaven Farm in Washington. A heritage Buckeye chicken breeder, Barbara did what most would call impossible to do for a first timer: she bought two Pyrenean Mastiff x Great Pyrenees siblings, Lucy and Patty, dubbed "The Pockets" because they were the runts of the litter, and single-handedly with my guidance, brought them up to guard poultry. She was so successful in this endeavor, that Barbara and her dogs were featured in two published articles I wrote on training LGDs to guard poultry. She later added "The A Team", Argenta and Agostin, two sibling Spanish Mastiffs I bred, to her pack. They, along with "The Pockets, now guard her farm and flocks from predators. She has had zero losses with her dogs.


    In both Diana and Barbara's situations, neither woman put up blockades in their minds, or in their opportunities with my dogs. They didn't listen to people who said "it cannot be done". They achieved what most say is not achievable with first time LGD owners. All because, they came into this experience with No Mind, and empty cups, and let them be filled with wonderful dogs giving them loyal and devoted service and companionship.


    THIS WINTER, RIGHT NOW


    You think on this now, and winter, and what is happening now on your farm or ranch. You reflect on what needs to happen to make your ranch or farm work, your animals safe and well, and yourself, happy and safe. How do you set it up to succeed, and deal with increased predators? There is no quick or single answer to this. There are many. What is on your list? Here is some of what is on mine.


    In the winter, I want my livestock safe.

    I want them well fed, with unfrozen water.

    If it dips into subzero temperatures, I want them to keep warm enough as not to suffer.

    I recognize in winter, the coyote population around my ranch, tends to increase and threats increase.

    I recognize they are hungry, looking for food, and more apt to test fences and measures I have in place.

    I recognize my dogs are not made of stone, and that they need food, warmth and comfort in winter.

    I do not expect my dogs to work 24/7 without a break in bad and extreme weather.

    I put my sheep and cattle up in a barn or covered enclosed area to enhance safety and comfort.

    I recognize in deep snow, fencing must be checked for holes, wear, or in some cases, coverage.

    I recognize the added stress of extreme temperatures can tire out my working dogs faster.

    I allow my dogs access to heated enclosed areas where their feet may thaw out and they recover from cold and high winds.

    I de-worm them going into winter.

    I put Musher's Secret on their pads to help deal with the snow and ice. It is cheap and very effective.

    I make sure they are eating well. This means in my personal situation buying them the best dog food I can afford, which is a four star rated brand of grain free kibble. I add bacon fat, cocoanut oil, eggs, scraps, bread, probiotic yogurt, and raw meat when I can afford it to keep them well.

    If a dog is down in weight, I supplement them with Satin Balls when the temps take a down turn and we do not go above freezing for weeks.

    By doing these things, my dogs stay alert, strong and are less stressed, and better able to deter increased pressure from the large coyote packs who come down off the surrounding mountains in search of food.


    WHAT ARE YOU DOING?


    Many new hobby farmers in America are new to agriculture. Unlike some of us, they come to ranching and farming from the city. They held city jobs. They did not own livestock. They never punched cows or herded sheep for a living; they have never lived in a remote cow camp, or sheep camp. They continue to hold full time non-ag jobs to pay their bills and support their new farm venture. Their husbands or wives bring home big paychecks that pay for their 'self sustenance' venture that is in reality, nothing close to that, but instead, just an expensive hobby they enjoy. At one time, when I ran 25 dogs, and had several litters a year, my dog business was self-sustaining. It is smaller now, and not. But back to my point. Many hobby farmers are gone during the day at work at jobs. They are away from their stock when predators come around. What does this mean?


    This means they are not with their dogs or animals and don't know what is happening.


    Then there are some, who are home, but spend all day in front of a TV set, or video games or on the Internet, or tending to screaming children instead of paying attention to what their Livestock Guardian Dogs are barking at, or what is going on with their calving heifers, or their goats and sheep. These kind of people often have little if any connection with their animals and LGDs. They don't watch. They care - barely - some not at all. They expected this to be easy, and when they find out it is a lot of hard work and commitment, they get angry and impatient and frustrated. They are disconnected. This mindset and way of "farming" is causing more and more problems to happen now with Livestock Guardian Dogs, and you read about them in forums and on Facebook, every day. These are the people who do not understand, farming and animals are not "out there". They are here. The animals think and feel. The dogs think and feel. The predators too, think and feel.


    RESPECTING NATURE


    Many people resort to shooting, trapping or poisoning predators. Why do I not advocate this?


    First of all, even recognizing their threat to my stock and operation, I respect them as animals, and I recognize, they are complex creatures - far more than most understand - that they too, think and feel. I have read enough books now and followed many co-existence groups and organizations to realize that a pack of wolves or coyotes, is very similar to my own pack of LGDs. There is a highly organized, fluid, dynamic familial unit that these creatures live in and I respect that. When that unit, or pack, is disrupted by the death of a member, that does not guarantee anything. Many people are under the wrong assumption that by shooting one or two coyotes they will go away.


    That usually backfires on them. In Nevada our popular saying here is "if you shoot a coyote, three come to it's funeral". In other words, suddenly your predator presence has tripled from what it was before you took the animal's life. Therefore I only advocate killing a predator when all else has failed or in the most extreme situations where the predator has become too bold, and solely exists on domestic stock or fowl, and stops hunting wild game. I will shoot in the air over their heads before I take their life. Usually that suffices and they will run away. There are so many other solutions out there that do not require killing.


    LGDs are not meant to be a one stop solution to all your winter predator problems. And too many people say, "it is like this" or "it can only be that". They expect dogs to be a "Magic Bullet". Too many people use them as that, then get frustrated when the dogs cannot save all their stock, or they begin to dig or climb out, and are lost, run over, stolen or killed, etc.


    WHERE IS YOUR DOG NOW, AND WHAT IS HE DOING?


    Particularly in the winter, some Livestock Guardian Dogs will try to leave their confines, usually for many reasons:


    They are bored. They have nothing to do.


    The containment of the area (fencing) is substandard, incomplete, not adequate and/or non extant.


    They are being perpetually kept in too small of a confined area (for me, this means anything under 3 acres). It simply is not enough room to allow them to travel and feel as though they have a purpose.


    They are hungry or neglected and have no water to drink because it is gone or frozen solid.


    They are overworked and cold.


    They see predators on the other side of their fence, and want to engage them.


    They are frustrated or afraid or upset at the predators outside their fence.

    In some situations the wrong breed is being used - i.e. a hyper, far ranging breed is put on a tiny plot of ground and expected to stay put and be content.


    Non-LGD breeds crossed on LGD breeds is usually a disaster and creates confused dogs with conflicting drives/traits - these dogs will often escape or be unable to operate normally as LGDs.


    Something or someone outside of the fence is taunting the dog, or causing them frustration to the degree they want to tackle it "mano a mano" - hand to hand. So they climb or dig out to confront the issue.


    There is minimal or no interaction with the dogs and their owners who do not check on them or back them up in a situation. They feel unwanted, neglected and sad. They are never stroked or petted or feet checked or hugged.


    On commercial operations, in some cases the herders are ill-trained and prepared, and don't keep track of the guardian dogs - in extreme cases of inept management, shepherding or undermanned, under-dogged situations, death and disaster strikes. In the worst cases there is outright neglect and what is blatant abuse. The dog's motivation and loyalty to the owner decreases and they finally have none because it is not returned by the owner. They leave.


    Can you blame them? I can't. The owner has reaped what he has sown.


    THERE IS A BETTER WAY


    People and Carnivores is one of the best resources I know of for links and papers on how to better co-exist with large carnivores such as bears, lion, wolves, coyotes, badgers, bobcats and large birds of prey. It is an extensive website, and I strongly recommend everyone take the time to peruse their site and see what they have to offer you for free - so much of it is accessible and free to read from a computer (get off your Smart Phone, and sit down, in front of a real computer for a change). They are the organization that came to my ranch to make this award winning film several years ago on using Livestock Guardian Dogs in combination with other means to protect livestock.


    If you will approach your predator issues with No Mind, you will find doors open up for you in terms of opportunities and solutions. When you close yourself off to new ideas, just because they don't "jive" with what you have been doing for so long, for decades or months, you will find you will probably not succeed. You must have common sense. Without it you will not succeed. But you also must be open to new ideas.


    Winter is coming. You can do many things to make it a good one for your operation, livestock, dogs and yourself, if you will try it with No Mind.


    If you keep closing your mind, if you will not empty your cup, if you fail, you will have no one or no thing to blame, but yourself!

    Edited by Staff
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2017
    Ridgetop and Alibo like this.
  2. Sep 8, 2017
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2010
    Messages:
    13,118
    Likes Received:
    27,374
    Trophy Points:
    763
    Location:
    Northeast Texas
    How sad that people treat their dogs so badly. Our dogs are valued members of the farm family. A very good article Brenda, and thought provoking.
     
    Ridgetop and BrendaMNgri like this.
  3. Sep 8, 2017
    Southern by choice

    Southern by choice Herd Master

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2012
    Messages:
    13,304
    Likes Received:
    14,453
    Trophy Points:
    603
    Location:
    North Carolina
    As you know I already agree with the majority of what you write. I am often just appalled at the mentality of most people when looking for, raising up, and needing LGD's.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2017
    Ridgetop likes this.
  4. Feb 13, 2018
    Padre23

    Padre23 Exploring the pasture

    Joined:
    May 4, 2017
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    19
    Location:
    NY
    Brenda, I agree with a lot of your post.

    I do also think that regulated predator hunting/management (key word being "regulated") has a role to play in modern conservation.

    I understand how LGD's, fencing, range riders, fladry, and other non-lethal measures play a role. But I also think that predator deterrence will not work in every situation. Moreover, there are specific issues (big horn sheep in California, the dwindling caribou population in the Pacific Northwestern US) where predator management is an absolute must for the long term viability of other species.

    I'm not picking apart your comments, because truth be told you have far more experience than I when it comes to livestock and predator issues. But I do see this as a multi-faceted issue.
     
    Ridgetop likes this.
  5. May 29, 2018
    Ridgetop

    Ridgetop True BYH Addict

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2015
    Messages:
    1,166
    Likes Received:
    2,387
    Trophy Points:
    283
    Location:
    Shadow Hills, CA
    I just found your article and I really like what you have to say. I am always interested in what works for everyone else. If you approach all information and advice with an open mind you can learn. We should never stop trying to learn.

    Show dogs with the proper breeding can and should be able to do their job. I have owned sporting breeds where some hunted and some didn't but if you buy the bloodlines that do both you get a much better dog. My champions all had sporting titles too. There are plenty of show LGDs that show and work. In my opinion, I feel that a dog should be able to do work at the original purpose of the breed. I absolutely abhor those breeders who breed all the working ability out of their dogs because they are only interested in show trophies.

    We showed Bubba, but had to stop until he got older since he started to growl in the ring 9a big no no!) Luckily the other breeders reassured me that it was common at his teenager age. I will try when he is 4 and if he does not like it then either, he will come back to work. It is in my contract to show a couple times, do OFA etc. and let the breeder collect him. Then I am going to have him neutered because I am not interested in breeding or putting him at stud.

    I agree that normally you can keep predators under control with proper practices. There are some states (mine - California being one) where the mind set of the animal rights have stopped all control of some of the predators. Cougars are on the rise, and have decimated many of the native deer and other prey animals in the mountains. Coyotes are so bad in many areas (ours especially, after the fires this year in our area) that they are hunting neighborhood animals and livestock in broad daylight. Again the authorities have stopped allowing the trapping and killing of these predators no matter how many there are. In Burbank people cannot walk their dogs in the evening without being followed by packs of coyotes and my friend's granddaughter was surrounded in her car by a pack of 5 who would not let her out of her car in her own driveway in a residential community - small lots in Burbank!

    I think there should be a common sense plan of controlling predators using both lethal and non lethal ways to get rid of them. We have had our first losses in several years losing a lamb last month and again last night. We have only 5 acres fenced and our 2 Anatolians (5 and 2) are working night and day due to the heavy number of packs surrounding us. We back up to 100 acres open but on the other side of the acreage there are residential horse properties. After the fires last winter there are now 5 packs surrounding our home where we used only to have 1 resident pack.

    We have started penning the sheep up again at night in the center of the acreage to make it easier for our Anatolians to protect them. There were working all night as well as during the day. The last kill took place early in the evening between 7:00 and 11:00. We were able to narrow it down because my husband counted the sheet and saw the lamb at 7pm. At 11pm when he went to feed them Rika (5 yrs) would not come in from the field. The puppy came in for his dinner. This morning Rika was missing again (we have a deep bushy ravine so can't see the entire property easily) and was finally spotted in the bottom laying down. Our youngest daughter went down to check and she was guarding the body of the dead lamb. Typical coyote kill, tooth marks in throat, and belly ripped open to feed BUT nothing eaten. When we retrieved the carcass and I got a look at Rika we found out why. She had a big bite mark in her face but no other injuries. Obviously though she was not feeling good and when we brought her dinner she ate laying down. I doctored the puncture wounds with udder treatment (Erick Conard's trick for antibiotics in puncture wounds - I keep it on hand). We figure she reached the lamb just as the coyote(s) were opening the belly to feed. It probably fought for the lamb since after the fires they are probably starving and that is when she got bitten. I did not find the body of the coyote so it may have escaped back through the hole I found where it had dug in. If she and Bubba killed it, I decided to wait a week when the smell and ravens will lead me to the carcass.

    As it was, I slipped climbing back up the hill following my son who retrieved the 70 lb lamb carcass. I twisted my bad knee and poor son had to climb back down, pick me up and help me up the hill as well as carrying the lamb. I can hardly walk, I HATE getting old! :confused:

    However, I have decided to use your "No Mind" way and we need to sell out here and move to a level area with water and grazing! LOL A friend of our son said his uncle would be selling his 20 acre ranchette in Mindenville, NV in another year or so. I told him to let us know when he does. My husband scolded me all afternoon about going down the gully but I forgot that I am not the woman who used to leap up and down and could jump easily over obstacles. Alas for my lost youth. :old
     
    Baymule likes this.
  6. May 29, 2018
    Baymule

    Baymule Herd Master

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2010
    Messages:
    13,118
    Likes Received:
    27,374
    Trophy Points:
    763
    Location:
    Northeast Texas
    It's hard for me to fathom how people can be so stupid. With predators prowling the very streets, it's only a matter of time before they snatch a child.
     
  7. May 29, 2018
    Mini Horses

    Mini Horses Herd Master

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2015
    Messages:
    2,146
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Trophy Points:
    328
    Location:
    S coastal VA
    I am confident, with the extensive wildfires over the past 1.5 yrs that the meat predators are in a difficult situation. It does not ease the loss of livestock but, it is understandable. In some places the dump sites are feeding grounds for bear and others. Sad but true.

    It is obviously dangerous for humans with the marauding animals, hunting, to be in the human residential areas. We expect them, to some degree, out in the rural landscape. Some control needs to be in place for the numbers of them.
     
  8. May 30, 2018
    BrendaMNgri

    BrendaMNgri Loving the herd life

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2016
    Messages:
    133
    Likes Received:
    157
    Trophy Points:
    133
    Location:
    The Big Out There, Northern Nevadaa
    Its funny that you guys were bringing this post up as today I was researching the long extinct California Grizzly Bear.
    Hard to believe my home state of Cali once played host to these huge bruins - yes, even in Southern California.
    Kind of makes the black bear look harmless in a way. Subsequently after the demise of the Grizzly, the black bear flourished because
    it had no predator to hunt it or compete with it for food. It then became a pest (note last paragraph below, in bold.)

    This is an interesting article I found on them. The original page has photos including a wild looking chair made from six Grizzly feet and a large hide.


    Published on Natural History Magazine

    The Sunland Grizzly

    In 1916, Cornelius Birket Johnson, a Los Angeles fruit farmer, killed the last known grizzly bear in Southern California and the second-tolast confirmed grizzly bear in the entire state of California. Johnson was neither a sportsman nor a glory hound; he simply hunted down the animal that had been trampling through his orchard for three nights in a row, feasting on his grape harvest and leaving big enough tracks to make him worry for the safety of his wife and two young daughters. That Johnson’s quarry was a grizzly bear made his pastoral life in Big Tujunga Canyon suddenly very complicated. It also precipitated a quagmire involving a violent Scottish taxidermist, a noted California zoologist, Los Angeles museum administrators, and the pioneering mammalogist and Smithsonian curator Clinton Hart Merriam. As Frank S. Daggett, the founding director of the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art, wrote in the midst of the controversy: “I do not recollect ever meeting a case where scientists, crooks, and laymen were so inextricably mingled.” The extermination of a species, it turned out, could bring out the worst in people.

    [media:node/2746 caption vertical large left]Prior to his encounter with the grizzly, Johnson led a relatively peaceful existence. His family settled in the region in the 1870s and would eventually claim a 160-acre tract at no cost under the Homestead Act in 1905. But in the era prior to largescale irrigation and flood control projects, a vast tract of free land could be a burden as often as it was a bounty. Completely dependent upon the erratic Big Tujunga Creek, the Johnsons’ relatively successful farming operations were always one dry spell away from catastrophe. And when they tried to dam a portion of the creek for seasonal water storage, Cornelius’s younger brother Alvarado, nicknamed Alva—who lived downstream on a ranch inherited through marriage—sued his father and brothers. Alva lost the case, shunned his family, and incurred a substantial legal debt that he sought to pay by robbing trains. Alva and his accomplice succeeded in their first robbery in 1893, but wrecked the train in their second, killing two people. Alva spent the next eleven years in San Quentin, and the elder Johnsons retained their dam. By 1916, Cornelius Johnson—almost fifty years old at the time—understood the vicissitudes of the farming life and guarded his crops vigilantly.

    When Johnson first detected the signs of a large bear at his farm in late October, he grabbed his .30 Marlin rifle and followed the animal’s tracks for about a mile into foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, where he lost them. The next night he laid down a heavy bear trap, anchored to a fifty-pound sycamore log, and baited it with spoiled beef. Two mornings later, Johnson awoke to find the trap—and the sycamore log—gone, and he easily followed the new tracks for about half a mile, until he found the bear, bloody and exhausted, and shot it. In his twenty years in Tujunga Canyon, Johnson had never seen a grizzly bear, so few were their numbers at this point, but he quickly recognized the telltale long claws and the grayish or “grizzled” fur and knew what he had. He brought back his horse and wagon to drag the 250-pound bear to the local butcher, had it skinned and butchered, and sold off cuts of the meat to the locals. He saved the hide, the head and neck, and a shoulder of the bear, expecting they might be worth something, but he did not know how rare his find truly was.

    Unbeknownst to him at the time, Johnson contributed to the permanent extinction of the California grizzly bear (Ursus arctos californicus), a subspecies of the North American brown bear, which has five or six extant subspecies today, including the grizzly bear and the Kodiak bear. At one point the California grizzly was classified as its own species, Ursus horribilis. Zoologists estimate that the California grizzly population was approximately 10,000 at its peak, around the 1820s and 1830s. The bears were a common sight to the California Indians, the Spaniards, and the flood of Americans arriving during and after the Gold Rush of 1849. “We have here grizlys in great abundance,” a rancher in Kern County complained in 1857. “[T]hey are really a nuisance, you cannot walk out half a mile, without meeting some of them, and as they just now have their clubs [cubs], they are extremely ferocious so, I was already twice driven on a tree.” A lowland and foothill dwelling animal that once roamed the entire length of the state west of the Sierras and the southern deserts, the grizzly found itself in the direct line of American settlement and enterprise. Although many grizzlies were wantonly slaughtered for sport and, sometimes, for their meat, most bear hunters killed to preserve human life and property. California newspapers of the late nineteenth century were replete with accounts of grizzlies raiding livestock and occasionally killing ranch hands who dared to obstruct their sorties. By the end of the nineteenth century, the only refuge for the grizzly was the heavy chaparral of the Santa Ana Mountains, the western flank of the Southern Sierra Nevada, the mountains of Santa Barbara County, and the San Gabriel Mountains.

    [media:node/2748 caption horizontal large center]By 1916, the sighting of a grizzly anywhere in California was so rare that Johnson’s feat made the Los Angeles Times on the second of November, a day when California’s leading zoologist, Joseph Grinnell, just happened to be visiting his mother in Pasadena. The founding director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, Grinnell had established himself as a leading authority on the birds and mammals of the western United States, publishing hundreds of articles, leading dozens of research expeditions, and gathering hundreds of specimens for the Museum, which was supported entirely by a benefactress who expected Grinnell to maintain a world-class collection. With a prestigious directorship, a coveted professorship at Berkeley, and accolades too numerous to mention, Grinnell had everything. Everything, that is, except for a California grizzly skull, and it gnawed at him. The Los Angeles County Museum had one—and it was “decidedly ahead of us on that score,” Grinnell wrote its founding director, Frank S. Daggett—and so did the most renowned zoologist in the country, Clinton Hart Merriam, who led the Biological Survey division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. Grinnell wanted desperately for his museum to have a real California grizzly skull, and he devoured the news of Johnson’s capture.

    But Grinnell was driven by more than scientific curiosity and the desire to enhance the prestige of the Berkeley museum. He was also compelled by the thrilling sensation of proximity to wildness and danger. As a boy in Pasadena, hiking with his father in the San Gabriel Mountains, Grinnell had seen abundant evidence of grizzlies, many of which ransacked local apiaries for their honey at night. But Grinnell had never seen a live grizzly. “I was obsessed only with the spirit of adventure, the yearning to ‘kill a bear,’ as two or three other Pasadena boys had done,” he later wrote. He often wrote admiringly—perhaps a bit enviously—about a particular boy who had the fortune of shooting a fullgrown male grizzly in Big Tujunga Canyon. Stories of these close encounters with grizzlies were likely fresh in his mind when he drove to Johnson’s ranch to verify that the remains were, indeed, those of a grizzly bear, albeit a small one. Johnson welcomed the scientist but delivered bad news: he had sent off the pelt and skull to a taxidermist, A.G. Booth.

    Grinnell and Johnson visited Booth together, and Grinnell saw “the skull, still in the flesh showing every feature of a grizzly.” But Grinnell wrote in his field notes that Booth “was wise to its great value, and proposed not to let it out of his hands under any consideration.” Later Johnson agreed to sell the skull for thirty dollars after Booth was done with his work. After all, Booth did not need the real skull to preserve, stuff, and mount the head. Grinnell paid Johnson for the skull in advance and wrote in his field notes that Johnson was a good and “absolutely trustworthy” man.

    But Booth was a different story, and Grinnell had good reason to worry about him. In 1906, Booth had been arrested for warehousing the spoils of three Yellowstone poachers who’d threatened to kill anyone that interfered with their operation, and who probably were responsible for the murder of a Yellowstone game warden. The Los Angeles game warden had found, via a secret door beneath Booth’s shop, more than 150 elk horns, heads, hides, scalps, and teeth worth more than $10,000, “the largest confiscation of taxidermy supplies ever made in the United States,” according to the Los Angeles Times. There was not enough evidence to convict Booth of a crime, but the three poachers were convicted under the Lacey Act, the landmark conservation law passed in 1900 and vigorously enforced under the presidential administration of that celebrated outdoorsman, Theodore Roosevelt.

    When Johnson and Grinnell returned to Booth’s shop to follow up, they found Booth with a cleaned skull, which he promised to hand over when the job was done. But Grinnell recognized that the specimen was the skull of a polar bear. Grinnell kept quiet—he worried that confronting Booth would only diminish his chances of ever getting the real grizzly skull. Later Booth told Grinnell that if he wanted the skull (the polar bear skull that he was falsely presenting as a grizzly skull), he would have to bid against Grinnell’s good friend Frank S. Daggett at the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art.

    Grinnell soon called Daggett to confirm that Booth had contacted him. And then, in a rare moment of pettiness, Grinnell betrayed his friend by not disclosing that the skull presented as a grizzly was in fact a polar bear. “I felt resentful towards you,” Grinnell later confessed to Daggett, “for at least countenancing any scheme which Booth might be contriving to keep me from getting the real skull.” Daggett, of course, had no knowledge that Grinnell was trying to get the skull for himself, and was a complete innocent in the affair. And as a result, Daggett bought the polar bear skull for the Museum. For the next two months, Daggett believed that he had a genuine California grizzly skull in his museum until Clinton Hart Merriam revealed its identity.

    [media:node/2749 caption vertical large left]Grinnell, having declared himself “done with the case,” had spent those two months in Death Valley conducting field research. Daggett, in the meantime, concocted a plan to send Los Angeles County sheriffs out to Johnson’s farm, but Grinnell cautioned against that action in a series of letters exchanged during the Christmas season of 1916.

    It is now high time for me to combine with you, to save that Sunland grizzly skull. For I am morally certain it is a Grizzly, as I saw not only the hide and claws, but also the uncleaned skull the teeth of which I examined. My advice now is not to scare Booth in any way (so that he might scent criminal proceedings), as he might in a pinch destroy outright the real skull. He, and no one else apparently, knows where the real skulls is, and it is that that you must put your wits to getting him to cough up—for the sake of science. I don’t care a snap about seeing Booth convicted—but rather to see the skull available in some Scientific Museum, preferably in this state, where it belongs. Of course, I wanted it to come here.

    Daggett, still smarting from his wounds, was disinclined to follow Grinnell’s advice. Instead, he had officials accompany him to Booth’s shop, where he returned the polar bear skull and recouped the County’s money.

    But Booth was relentless in his determination to make a profit from the whole affair. Shortly after the Christmas holiday, he drove out to Johnson’s ranch and produced a third skull, much bigger than the polar bear skull and more likely, he figured, to deceive Daggett and his staff and fetch a nice price. When Johnson brought the skull to Daggett, as Booth had suggested, Daggett fired off a telegram to Grinnell asking him to express the “condyles”—the tips of the shoulder bones that Grinnell had dug up at Johnson’s property—so that his staff could compare them against the third skull. It did not take long for them to determine that it was not a match.

    As the year wore on, Grinnell and Daggett grew apart, communicated less frequently, and reconciled themselves to never finding the real skull. Daggett sent Grinnell a letter early in 1918 in which he shared the tragicomic news that Johnson, convinced that no American scientist could be trusted, had shipped the third skull to the British Museum for authentication. However, he wrote: “I have no more personal interest in the matter.” “Under the circumstances,” Grinnell wrote back, “I do not care to figure further in the affair.” If Grinnell and Daggett had any more communication, there is no record of it. Daggett died suddenly of a heart attack in April of 1920, and Grinnell never knew how much his deception had wounded the man. In a letter to Merriam at the height of the confusion, Daggett accused Grinnell of having “deliberately planned to discredit me with you, and incidentally with our scientists on the Coast.”

    Meanwhile, Booth kept scheming. In August of 1921, he tried to exploit Daggett’s death by attempting to sell, through an intermediary named John Rowley, the skull of the “Sunland grizzly” to the new director of the Los Angeles County Museum, William A. Bryan. But Bryan quickly learned the story. “I am confident,” the ornithologist Luther E. Wyman wrote to Bryan, “that Booth, having once flouted science in general and this museum in particular, would not hesitate to play the same crooked game again if given the chance.” Bryan turned down Rowley’s offer, as any reasonable person would, but it was a terrible mistake. For the first time since he absconded with the skull in 1916, Booth was offering the real Sunland grizzly skull. Rowley then approached Grinnell, who agreed to examine the skull if he mailed the skull immediately to his laboratory in Berkeley. And in September of 1921, Grinnell lined up the condyles with the skull—they were a perfect match, complete with the unique butcher’s knife marks inflicted in 1916. Joseph Grinnell had recovered the Sunland grizzly, the second-to-last California grizzly known to this day. The last was killed in Fresno in August of 1922.

    The Sunland grizzly skull proved to be much more than a vanity piece for Grinnell. He used its molars to establish a definitive test for distinguishing the remains of grizzly bears from those of all other types of bears. His published description of that analysis is in his monumental two-volume work Fur-Bearing Mammals of California (1937). He greatly enriched the natural history holdings of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley. And, in the process, he got to reexperience his childhood excitement and fascination with the elusive California grizzly. But he must also have wondered if it was worth it. (Incidentally Grinnell received a letter in 1939 claiming that the grizzly Johnson shot had been no local native, but an escapee from the Griffith Park Zoo, which opened in Los Angeles in 1912; he likely dismissed it as being from an eccentric, and did not reclassify his specimen.)

    [media:node/2750 caption horizontal large left]If the killing of the Sunland grizzly roiled the regional scientific community, it also marked the end of ursine Los Angeles. For almost twenty years there were no bears in the region, a boon for local apiaries, though certainly not for ecological conservation. This all changed in 1933, when a San Bernardino businessman-cum-fish and game warden named J. Dale Gentry sought to make the wilderness of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains “wilder” by importing black bears. He only had to look to Yosemite, where wardens sought to oust a pack of particularly rapacious bears. And so, in 1933, trucks carrying twenty-eight of Yosemite’s “worst” black bears deposited their cargo in the mountains of Southern California. Normally ranging at higher elevations to avoid lowland grizzlies, these black bears enjoyed the spoils of lowland flora, fauna, and human garbage. In the last twenty years alone, the California black bear population has tripled. With no grizzlies to hold the species in check, the black bear became the king of the wilderness—and, increasingly, the king of the suburbs. --JS

    Source URL (retrieved on 2018-05-30 18:25): http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/features/182751/the-sunland-grizzly
     
  9. May 30, 2018
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2011
    Messages:
    5,715
    Likes Received:
    9,833
    Trophy Points:
    533
    Location:
    East Texas
    I find bullets to be the cheapest and most permanent solution.
     
    Pastor Dave likes this.
  10. May 30, 2018
    Simpleterrier

    Simpleterrier Loving the herd life

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2016
    Messages:
    241
    Likes Received:
    282
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    North central Ohio
    So if the wild fires got rid of alot of prey animals why wouldn't of it gotten rid of alot of predators?

    Could it be the predators are thick because of hunting restrictions?