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Coyotes-Wolves-Cougars.blogspot.com

Grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars/ mountain lions,bobcats, wolverines, lynx, foxes, fishers and martens are the suite of carnivores that originally inhabited North America after the Pleistocene extinctions. This site invites research, commentary, point/counterpoint on that suite of native animals (predator and prey) that inhabited The Americas circa 1500-at the initial point of European exploration and subsequent colonization. Landscape ecology, journal accounts of explorers and frontiersmen, genetic evaluations of museum animals, peer reviewed 20th and 21st century research on various aspects of our "Wild America" as well as subjective commentary from expert and layman alike. All of the above being revealed and discussed with the underlying goal of one day seeing our Continent rewilded.....Where big enough swaths of open space exist with connective corridors to other large forest, meadow, mountain, valley, prairie, desert and chaparral wildlands.....Thereby enabling all of our historic fauna, including man, to live in a sustainable and healthy environment. - Blogger Rick

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Los Angeles like the entire USA once housed an impressive Prairie natural system that was "veined" by the ebb and flow of the Los Angeles River.........Pronghorn, Grizzly Bears, Pumas and Wolves headlined this vibrant biome.....................Among the best descriptions of "virgin" Los Angeles are two early Spanish visitors to the region.................: Pedro Fages, a soldier who explored the area in 1775; and Pedro Font, a missionary who accompanied Juan Bautista de Anza during his 1775-76 expedition through California...... Font entered the San Gabriel Valley on January 3, 1776, describing the plain as "a country very level on all sides; we found it very green in spots, and the blossoms already bursting forth".................. Fifty-six years later, the early Anglo settler Hugo Reid described the animal life beneath the grasslands............: "Squirrels, rabbits, and gophers were continually scurrying down into their holes, out of harm's way"..............Los Angeles ceased to be a natural prairie system at the dawn of the 20th century when in 1897 the last Grizzly Bear was hunted to extinction

WILD L.A., THE LAND THAT ONCE WAS
A mountain lion killed by an automobile in Pacific Palisades, 1928. Courtesy of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society Collection, Santa Monica Public Library.
A mountain lion killed by an automobile in Pacific Palisades, 1928. Courtesy of the Pacific Palisades Historical Society Collection, Santa Monica Public Library.

A series of recent news headlines have reminded us that our city—often associated with brown skies, high-speed pavement, and its concrete river—still maintains an intimate relationship with nature.
Throughout the summer, spooked residents of Burbank and Glendale reported at least five mountain lion sightings. "I have a 4-year-old daughter and 10-year-old girl," one man told theLos Angeles Times. "I am just seriously scared." Then, on August 30, a cougar sprinting across the 405 freeway in the Santa Monica 


Prior to Spanish colonization, the vast Los Angeles Basin and the nearby inland valleys hosted an expansive prairie ecosystem.
Grasses and wildflowers covered much of the land, interrupted by sycamore-lined arroyos and streams. One of the watercourses, the Los Angeles River, had an outsize influence on the landscape. Issuing from the vast subterranean reservoir of the San Fernando Valley, the river flowed year-round into coastal marshes. Never a broad, placid river like those of the eastern United States, the Los Angeles River's flow often slowed to a trickle. Exceptionally heavy rains, though, would transform the tame river into a raging torrent that could not be trusted to keep to its channel.

In fact, for some time the river did not flow toward its current mouth on San Pedro Bay; instead, it turned west toward Santa Monica Bay after passing what is today downtown Los Angeles. In 1815, the river overflowed its banks and began carving a shortcut to the sea, bringing the river uncomfortably close to the still-fledgling Los Angeles pueblo. The town was forced to abandon its original plaza and construct a new one on higher ground.

Ten years later, the storm-swollen river burst through its banks again, this time sculpting an entirely new channel that headed directly south toward San Pedro Bay, the present location of the river's mouth. Ballona Creek, which today empties into the Pacific Ocean just south of Marina Del Rey, is a remnant of the Los Angeles River's former path.
In 1886, the river washed out the adjacent tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad. The Downey Avenue Bridge, visible in the background, was also destroyed. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.
In 1886, the river washed out the adjacent tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad. The Downey Avenue Bridge, visible in the background, was also destroyed. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.

A swollen Los Angeles River rushes through Compton, 1926. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photography Collection.
A swollen Los Angeles River rushes through Compton, 1926. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photography Collection.

A tamer Los Angeles River flows through the Elysian Valley, circa 1895-1915. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.
A tamer Los Angeles River flows through the Elysian Valley, circa 1895-1915. Courtesy of the Title Insurance and Trust / C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, USC Libraries.

On the drier grasslands not flooded by the river's flow, herds of pronghorn antelope roamed freely, and holes made by the prairie's many rodent species pockmarked the ground. Condors, eagles, and other birds of prey soared above, sharing the sky with a diverse group of larks, sparrows, and plovers.

At the apex of the food chain stood California's eventual symbolic state animal, the grizzly bear. Unlike the more docile American black bear, the larger grizzly thrived in the flat, open savannas and grasslands of Southern California. Omnivorous, they were especially adept at digging through the ground in search of gophers, weasels, and other subterranean rodents. Grizzlies were so important to the local environment that, until recently, ecologists referred to the dominant Southern California biome as the Broad Sclerophyll-Grizzly Bear Community.

Humans also inhabited the land, of course. The Tongva Indians had occupied the Los Angeles Basin and its adjacent valleys for hundreds or even thousands of years. As the Militant Angeleno recently detailed in his blog's Native Week series, dozens of villages dotted the region, supporting a population of five to ten thousand. Although the Tongva did not inflict the kind of environmental trauma that our metropolis does today, they did shape the land over the centuries through brush-clearing fires, hunting, and intensive foraging.

Because the Tongva did not keep written records of their world, the observations of early European explorers and settlers, carefully preserved in libraries and archives, have been an invaluable resource to ecologists like Paula Schiffman who have reconstructed L.A.'s lost landscape. Among the best sources are two early Spanish visitors to the region: Pedro Fages, a soldier who explored the area in 1775; and Pedro Font, a missionary who accompanied Juan Bautista de Anza during his 1775-76 expedition through California.
Font entered the San Gabriel Valley on January 3, 1776, describing the plain as "a country very level on all sides; we found it very green in spots, and the blossoms already bursting forth." Two days later, he made a salad out of a plants he found growing naturally near a spring, one of which he described as celery and the others as "passably good little lettuces."

The next month, Anza's and Font's expedition crossed the Los Angeles River, then known as the Porciuncula: "We crossed the...river, which carries a good amount of water and runs toward the San Pedro bight and spreads out and loses itself upon the plains shortly before reaching the sea. The land was very green and flowery and the route had a few hills and a great deal of miry grounds created by the rains."
Fifty-six years later, the early Anglo settler Hugo Reid described the animal life beneath the grasslands:
Squirrels, rabbits, and gophers were continually scurrying down into their holes, out of harm's way. Indeed, these tiny animals had so honeycombed the surface of the ground as to make it dangerous to ride anywhere off the roadway faster than at a walk. The caravan stretched out in a thin line along a road the surface of which seemed no smoother than the open field. Only in this way was it possible to avoid stumbling, dropping a load, and perhaps breaking a leg.
Only the earliest visitors to the region witnessed L.A.'s indigenous prairie, which was destroyed long before parking lots and subdivisions replaced the region's wild flatlands. As the presence of Europeans grew, invasive Mediterranean species—transported accidentally or intentionally from the Old World—began to supplant the native flora. Horses and longhorn cattle, introduced by Spanish missionaries and allowed to graze freely over the valleys and coastal plain, disrupted the careful balance of the ecosystem. The final end of the prairie could perhaps be dated to the disappearance of its keystone species, the grizzly bear, which Angelenos hunted to local extinction in 1897.

Caballeros roping a grizzly bear. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection.
Caballeros roping a grizzly bear. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photograph Collection.






Our city's native landscape may be lost today, but reminders of the city's ecological history abound.
Many of the flora and fauna of the Los Angeles prairie have vanished, but some of Southern California's indigenous wildlife have adapted to the new urban ecosystem. Raccoons, skunks, and a host of bird species—joined by non-native species such as rats, eastern fox squirrels, and opossums—have moved from the neighboring chaparral communities of the hillsides into the artificial urban woodland of our modern metropolis.

Although straitjacketed in concrete for much of its route, the Los Angeles River still traces its post-1825 course to San Pedro Bay, its flow augmented by urban runoff. In some segments, pressure from upwelling water made it impossible to pave the river completely; in the Glendale Narrows, for example, cottonwoods spring up from the river's earthen bottom.

Natural history is also embedded in some of our city's place names. Downtown's Aliso Street refers to an ancient, 60-foot-tall sycamore, named El Aliso by early Spanish settlers, where the region's Tongva tribal leaders would once congregate. La Cienega Boulevard recalls the marshes (ciĆ©nagas in Spanish) where, as Font saw, the Los Angeles River lost itself before reaching the ocean.

Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members ofL.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, personal collections, and other institutions. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here will provide a view into the archives of individuals and cultural institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.

2 comments:

SciaticPain said...

Come across any reference to beaver in the LA basin? There is mounting evidence for beaver in Ventura/Santa Barbara counties and possibly San Diego county as well.

Rick Meril said...

Sciatcpain.................I am posting an article on the historical incidence of Beavers in Callif tonight...............Seems that they have been restored into the Santa Barbara region..............thanks for checking in