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Lewis and Clark in North Dakota:
Wildlife Then & Now

Mammals


White or Grey Bear (Grizzly Bear) Past Grizzly Bear Distribution Map for North Dakota
Key to Maps


White or Grey Bear (Grizzly Bear)

The expedition first encountered the white bear near the mouth of the Heart River south of Bismarck. Early reports by Lewis and Clark were marked by astonishment at the size of these animals as well as a bit of bravado. They apparently put too much faith in their flintlock rifles.

After members of the party had been charged by several wounded bears that required up to 10 rifle balls to kill, Lewis finally admitted "...I must confess that I do not like the gentlemen and had reather fight two Indians than one bear."

Grizzly bear were apparently found throughout the state, particularly in the forested bottoms along the major rivers, with bear numbers apparently highest in the western third of the state. Their decline seems to have started after 1850 when better large bore rifles became more common. By 1880 the grizzly was a rare sight. The last documented reports of this animal date from 1889 when tracks and other sign were found along the Little Missouri River.


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