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Friday, November 2, 2012

Grizzly Bears and Sacagawea

Grizzlies foraging; Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Shoshone Indians tell a story about a fight between a grey grizzly bear and a black bear. Some people think that there used to be polar bears in Idaho because Lewis and Clark reported seeing them.

In April 1805, Captain Lewis wrote in his journal:

"We...found many tracks of the white bear of enormous size, along the river shore and about the carcasses of the buffalo, on which I presume they feed. We have not as yet seen one of these animals, though their tracks are so abundant and recent...The Indians give a very formidable account of the strength and ferocity of this animal, which they never dare to attack but in parties of six, eight, or ten persons, and are even then requently defeated with the loss of one or more of their party" (Animals on the trail with Lewis and Clark by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.)

Did grizzlies interbreed with polar bears as far south as Idaho?

Not necessarily. As you can see by this picture, the way the light shines on the bears' coats makes it look like a shade of grey.

Another example of a "grey grizzly" here:

Source: Wikimedia Commons
This fellow's coat reminds me of a "silver back" gorilla's. 

What do you think Lewis and Clark really saw?

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