About the same year that Colorado became a state, 1876, a young five-year-old grizzly began to gain a reputation among ranchers as a cattle killer. The alarm went out around the ranches in the upper Arkansas River region to be on the lookout for this renegade. Ranchers and cowboys grew more concerned as the toll in lost livestock mounted. With two claws missing from the left hind foot his distinctive tracks were easily noted whenever he was prowling the livestock smorgasbord. A reward was quickly offered to encourage hunters to kill this cunning predator.
Two early pioneers of the Canon City, CO, area, William Stout and M.B. Waterhouse lost many cattle to this legendary bear. Either William or M.B. named the bear “Old Mose” based on his manner of slowly leaving a meal when being shot at and how he moseyed toward anyone unfortunate enough to be in his way. Long time bear hunter, Jack Ratcliff, camped on his trail with a party of hunters in 1876. Jack made a fatal slip on Tallahassee Mountain and fell with reach of Old Mose’s powerful paws. Old Mose severely mauled Jack and then hit the trail before anyone from the hunting party could get close. They carefully carried Jack to the Stirrup Ranch. Jack died on the way to the nearest doctor in Fairplay, CO.
Several years later, James Asher, another long time bear hunter met the same fate as Jack in almost the same way. Old Mose was found guilty by circumstantial evidence for two other deaths when a skeleton was found on Cameron Mountain and another one on Thirty-Nine-Mile Mountain. The legend of Old Mose attracted the attention of successful Idaho bear hunter J.W. Anthony. He came to Canon City in the spring of 1904 to team up with W.H. Pigg from the Stirrup Ranch to hunt legendary Old Mose. In April of that year Anthony’s well trained bear dogs stopped the bear long enough for him to put half a dozen shots from his .30-.40 into Old Mose. The steely nerved J.W. calmly stood his ground when the legend moseyed towards him. He finally stopped Old Mose at close range with a well placed head shot. Click here for a 10 page PDF file of the story by Jack Bell. It was published in Outdoor Life, July 1904.
Old Mose died on the northwest corner of Black Mountain south of Canon City at 4 o’clock on Saturday, April 30, 1904. Legends and histories pass from generation to generation creating today’s culture. Hopefully, the legend of Old Mose is still being talked about around the ranches and campfires in the range he once ruled as King of the Grizzlies.
– – Bob