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1890s Oregon Grizzly
Bears
Contributors to this thread:
DL 25-Mar-24
Matt 26-Mar-24
EZBreazy 26-Mar-24
EZBreazy 26-Mar-24
DL 26-Mar-24
Groundhunter 26-Mar-24
HDE 26-Mar-24
Medicinemann 26-Mar-24
tobywon 26-Mar-24
Dale06 26-Mar-24
DL 26-Mar-24
Ambush 26-Mar-24
fuzzy 26-Mar-24
Waylay 31-Mar-24
Supernaut 31-Mar-24
Nyati 31-Mar-24
TEmbry 31-Mar-24
t-roy 31-Mar-24
DL 01-Apr-24
From: DL
25-Mar-24
Can’t imagine coming on a bear that large with a killer attitude.

“The legend of the huge grizzly in our area... Reelfoot, 1890's "Old Reelfoot" Evaded Guns and Traps for Many Years The story of "Old Reelfoot," for which Mount Grizzly was named [Grizzly Peak was not named for Reelfoot. It was named for the bear that tried to eat Henry Chapman--on Grizzly Peak.] has been gathered by Vernon Hopkins, prominent valley sportsman, rancher and trapper, who obtained the authentic story from members of pioneer families who knew of the famous outlaw grizzly. Hopkins, a member of an old pioneer family, is interested in gathering historical facts and pictures of the valley. His grandfather, Geo. H. Bailey, is mentioned as one of the hunters in the following story. The pictures and information are published through the courtesy of George F. Wright, nephew of William A. Wright and Robert and Fred Bean of Phoenix, sons of Purl Bean. Mrs. Mildred Ager of Memory Lane Studio assisted in compiling the facts into the following story. Other pictures of "Old Reelfoot" may be seen in the windows of Memory Lane Studio. Back in the 1860s, grizzly bears were quite numerous in Southern Oregon and Northern California. As most of these were only average grizzlies, little attention was paid to those killed. Around 1869 an enormous grizzly made his appearance on this range in both Klamath and Jackson counties, his favorite haunts being the wild canyon region of the Siskiyou Mountains in the neighborhood of Pilot Rock, and thence eastward [sic] to Mt. Pitt. There he started his notorious career of killing cattle, and except for his huge tracks there was no way of distinguishing his killings from those of other grizzlies. He was of gigantic proportions, even more prodigious in strength and ferocity than the grizzlies usually found roaming the mountains, the difference shown in his finer hair. This race of mightier grizzlies were well known in California in the days of the earlier settlers, and they were greatly feared, but there are only a few of the monsters left, and these inhabit regions seldom or never penetrated by man. His peculiar track was caused by the loss of three of the claws of his left forefoot, which he had torn off in a huge trap set by Bruce Grieve of Fall Creek, a well-known stockman and noted bear hunter. The loss of these claws caused the left foot to turn outward at the heel as he walked, and hence the name "Old Reelfoot," or "Clubfoot." The less crafty grizzlies disappeared rapidly from this range, but Reelfoot had become a terror to the stockmen of the country. He was well known by his tracks and by the way he killed and afterwards treated his victims. Hundreds of cattle were killed by him in the mountains, and his tremendous strength enabled him to kill a full-grown steer with as much ease as an ordinary bear would kill a calf. Many were the cows and steers that were found killed this way, and about the carcass would be found the telltale tracks of Old Reelfoot. He continued his raids on the herds, while eluding the most carefully made trap sets and skilled hunters. Most bears after killing an animal will eat of the carcass until it is about all consumed, but this cunning fellow, apparently knowing the danger to himself from the rifles of hunters would hardly ever return to a carcass after leaving it, and seldom ate more than one meal from a beef that he killed. By keeping well concealed in the daytime and traveling at a rate almost impossible for man or horse to keep up with in the mountains, the bear had baffled the efforts of the best hunters in Oregon and Northern California to kill or trap him. He was seldom, if ever, seen by the hunters, but his unmistakable tracks were often found, and his trail could be followed by the dead cattle left in his path. Among those having the larger herds and suffering the heavier losses were Major Barron of Ashland and Dave Horn of Hornbrook. These stockmen, along with others, finally combined and offered a reward of $2700 for his scalp. This stimulated the hunters of this region to extraordinary efforts, and many a hard day's tramp and lonely night's watch resulted only in confirming the hunters in the belief that Reelfoot could not be caught. William A. Wright tried repeatedly to trap him, but always failed. Then he tried the plan of setting a loaded gun to kill him. The intelligence and cunning of the bear was soon evident. Mr. Wright at one time arranged a loaded gun in such a way that he thought it impossible for the bear to get at the bait without standing where he would receive the charge of the gun, and his astonishment was great when he found that the bear had studied out the combination for himself, and had taken the bait without being hurt by the discharge of the gun. He approached the gun from the lower side of the tree, where Mr. Wright thought he could not get, and then rising upon his hind feet and placing one paw against the tree for support, he had reached around with the other paw and taken the bait. The gun went off all right, but the bear was safe, for he was on the side of the tree next to the butt of the gun. The record of the whole proceedings was left in the soft ground about the tree (for it was muddy at the time), and in the mud [the] imprint of the bear's actions were shown almost as certainly as if he had been seen touching off the gun. Again and again Mr. Wright tried every plan known to hunters to effect his capture, but always failed, and for a time gave up trying to kill him. On April 10, 1890, William A. Wright and Purl Bean, the latter a boy of 17, started out to try once more to capture Reelfoot. After a long and weary tramp over the rough country southeast of Pilot Rock in northern Siskiyou Country, they came upon Reelfoot's tracks. After many hours of careful tracking, they sighted the great bear on the far side of a deep canyon as he raised from his bed made from a flattened woodrat nest. Two shots rang out, followed by the deafening roar of the enraged grizzly as he charged the hunters. The men bravely stood their ground, firing shot after shot into the charging bear. In spite of the great worth done by the hounds, the giant bear was within 40 feet of the hunters when he sank to the ground. The deep canyons echoed with the blood-curdling wails--such as only a dying bear can make. Then all was still. Thus ended the memorable career of Southern Oregon's great grizzly "Reelfoot." Reelfoot weighed 1892 pounds--a weight reached by very few bears in history. Other dimensions were: length from nose to tail, 7 feet; height 3 feet 4½ inches; width across hips: 2 feet, 4 inches; hind foot, 16 inches in length; length of claws, 4¾ inches, and head from nose to top 18 inches. Ashland Tidings, February 16, 1948, page 2”

From: Matt
26-Mar-24
That is quite a story, love the tales from the old timers. Not sure there have been very many 7’, 1,892# bears killed.

From: EZBreazy
26-Mar-24
Interesting. I heard my Grandfather tell that story long ago. Except what I remembered was his name was Slewfoot and lived near the base of Mt Shasta which is not that far from Pilot rock but still a poke. Thanks for sharing.

From: EZBreazy
26-Mar-24
Duplicate

From: DL
26-Mar-24

DL's Link
These western Grizzly bears seemed to be very aggressive. There’s been so many reports of them attacking people back then. I remember reading about this when we lived in Santa Cruz county. I enjoy these old historical stories.

From: Groundhunter
26-Mar-24
Biden administration wants to reintroduce them to the state of Washington.

From: HDE
26-Mar-24
Outweighed "Old Ephraim" by close to 700 lbs.

From: Medicinemann
26-Mar-24
Matt X 2

From: tobywon
26-Mar-24
Cool story!! I do have to admit, when I read that story John Candy's voice kept popping up in my head.

From: Dale06
26-Mar-24
I wonder how (if) they actually weighed that bear?

From: DL
26-Mar-24
Wish they had a front paw measurement. 16” rear paw seems pretty large

From: Ambush
26-Mar-24
A seven foot bear that weighs over 1,800 pounds?

Was it brought in by some walleye tournament fishermen?

From: fuzzy
26-Mar-24
Seven feet tail-to-nose. Total body length would be at least a couple feet longer

From: Waylay
31-Mar-24
Picture?

From: Supernaut
31-Mar-24
Excellent story and thanks for sharing it.

From: Nyati
31-Mar-24
I thought the now extinct California grizzly were a larger bear on average but after researching it they apparently were not

From: TEmbry
31-Mar-24
7 foot bear outweighing a bison! That’s impressive stuff.

From: t-roy
31-Mar-24
Probably weighed it shortly after it ate a bison…

From: DL
01-Apr-24
Everything is fatter out west.

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