The Story of Big Foot Mary: Last of the Western Colorado Grizzly Bears
I just happened to be looking at some old newspaper headlines hosted by the Mesa County Public Library over the weekend when I stumbled upon the legend of Big Foot Mary.
We've seen some smaller brown bears in Fruita and Palisade this fall but none of them have been anywhere near as large as Big Foot Mary was reported to be. The story of this gigantic bear that used to roam the Uncompahgre Plateau came to an end on October 22, 1925.
The Story of Big Foot Mary
Tales of Big Foot Mary were told throughout the Domingez Canyon area of western Colorado from around 1900 to about the 1920s. Trackers measured the bear's prints as large as 18 inches. A number of cattle in the area fell victim to Big Foot Mary. Uncompahgre cattlemen T.D. “Shorty” Bowman said he tried to hunt down the bear for over 25 years but could never catch it.
By October 1925, a hunter by the name of Ed Gill caught up to the beast.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel published an article about the death of Big Foot Mary and reported the bear weighed 910 pounds. Gill followed the bear for 3 days before meeting it face-to-face. He says the bear charged him and fell just a few feet away after Gill opened fire. Gill reported the bear's teeth were extremely worn and he guessed the animal was likely more than 30 years old.
Just How Big was Big Foot Mary?
There has only been 1 report of a bear in the Grand Junction area that was larger than Big Foot Mary who weighed in at 910 pounds. It was a Grizzly that was found up on the Grand Mesa in the 1890s and it weighed a stunning 925 pounds.
Big Foot Mary was turned into a 9-foot bear skin run. Over 200 pounds of fat was turned into valuable bear oil.
When Was the Last Grizzly Killed in Colorado?
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science says the last Grizzly bear was sighted and killed in Colorado in 1979. Grizzlys have been reported to be locally extinct in Colorado since the 1950s, but the case in 1979 near Durango is one that stands out. Hunter Ed Wiseman was mauled by a 400-pound Grizzly near the headwaters of the Navajo River. He managed to fatally wound the bear using an arrow. He was mauled, but survived the attack and was airlifted to Alamosa hospital. This was the last time a Grizzly was officially sighted in Colorado.