Grizzly Bears on The Prairie?
Grizzly Bear Ursus arctos
The grizzly bear was first mentioned by the expedition about 25 miles below the mouth of the Niobrara River, along the Nebraska-South Dakota boundary, where a "White Bear Clift" was named as the site where a grizzly bear had once been killed. Bear tracks were seen on October 7, 1804, on Fox Island, near the mouth of the Moreau River in South Dakota. However, the first actual encounter with a grizzly was on October 20, 1804,when one was wounded near the mouth of the Heart River, just south of present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. Bear tracks of great size were also encountered at the mouth of the Little Missouri River on April 13, 1805. Finally, a grizzly bear was killed by Captain Lewis on April 29 at the mouth of the Yellowstone River, near the Montana border. An even larger male was killed by Captain Clark on May 5; this preserved specimen was the basis for a later formal description and naming (Ursus ferox) of the species. When Prince Maximilian and Audubon visited the Fort Union area 30 and 39 years later, respectively, grizzly bears were still common there. However, grizzly bears were extirpated from South Dakota by about 1890 and from North Dakota by about the end of the nineteenth century.
Two were killed near Oakdale, North Dakota, in the autumn of 1897, perhaps representing the last known from that state, or indeed from anywhere within the Great Plains east of Montana.