While searching old newspapers online looking for something else (isn’t that always the way), I came across this entertaining story in the Butte Record of December 23, 1854.
The little town of Hamilton, a few evenings since, was visited by a Bruin of the grizzly species. The first intimation the peaceful inhabitants had of his presence, was given by their lowing and frightened herds, coming tearing into town as fast as their trembling limbs could carry them. The inhabitants were soon aroused, and discovered his bearship in the rear of the flying cattle. Judge W., from the upper country, happened to be in Hamilton, and the inhabitants arming themselves, and letting loose their dogs, followed the warlike Judge to the bushy field. They soon succeeded in corraling his bearship in the top of a fallen tree, which was soon surrounded by dogs, and armed and silent but excited citizens.
A hideous noise issuing from the tree top, warned all to be on their guard, and convinced the Judge, to whom the sound was perfectly familiar, that they had a regular grizzly to deal with. The utmost caution was now used. One person who was perched upon a high log, soon discovered a pair of fierce burning eyes, in the wreck of the tree top, at which he levelled his death-dealing rifle as well as the shades of evening would permit. His aim was sure, and the huge monster’s eyes were closed forever. The dogs then rushed in and grappling with their ferocious foe, drew forth a – Billy Goat!
“Kee-ris-topher Columbus, Judge,” exclaimed a voice in the nasal accent of New England; “ can’t you tell the snort of a grizzly from the bleat of a mounting goat?”
“For God’s sake, boys,” exclaimed the agonized Judge, “let’s bury him and swear it was a grizzly! It will never do to let this yarn reach Neal’s Ranch! What’ll you drink?”
I don’t know whether this is a true story, or just a tall tale to fill a page. There were certainly still grizzly bears in Butte County in 1854, so it could have happened.