Of Burros Bears and Dogs

The tales of the burros Prunes and Shorty, the dog Bum, and Old Mose, a notorious grizzly and one of the last grizzlies in the park, are prominent in South Park folklore.

According to Bair (1959), Prunes (1867-1930) was owned by Rupert Sherwood and packed so long for the gold mines in the Alma-Fairplay district that few could remember when he had started. Prospectors would send him down the mountain with a note tied to his saddle; he would return with his packs filled with food and supplies for the miners. His reward was a lump of brown sugar and pancakes. He witnessed Indian raids, lynchings, the coming of the railroads, and the start of the cattle ranching business. After many years of service, Rupert retired Prunes; he grew fat on handouts from the townspeople. After barely surviving a severe blizzard, Prunes was mercifully released from his life in the mining community. When Sherwood died in 1931, his ashes were buried with Prunes' remains. In 1943 a radio broadcast of Death Valley Days featured the heroic Prunes.

The story of Shorty and Bum is summarized from Shirley (1994). A granite monument stands on the courthouse lawn in Fairplay, recognizing the relationship between Shorty, a burro with unusually short legs, and Bum, a dog that "bummed" his way around the town and into the hearts of the residents during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Shorty, like Prunes, had worked in the mines near town. When his owner moved on, Shorty was left to fend for himself. As he grew older, his eyesight gave out, and he had trouble searching for food. It was about this time that Bum discovered Shorty in a pasture near the edge of town. Bum became Shorty's seeing-eye dog and led Shorty from house to house begging for food. The duo made many friends in town and never went hungry. They were given shelter on cold nights by the courthouse janitor, usually in his garage, and, on one particularly cold night, in the jail. One spring morning, several years later, Bum was chasing a chipmunk, as dogs sometimes do. Without his dog to guide him, Shorty stepped into the street, was hit by a car, and died. His remains were cremated. Ironically, only a few weeks later, Bum stepped into the path of a semitrailer truck and was also killed. Bum was buried beside Shorty, inseparable in death as they were in life.

Bair (1959) tells about the grizzly bear Old Mose, named for the way he would mosey along when he traveled. The bear was notorious for spreading terror along his 480-km range from the Utah border to his headquarters on Black Mountain. J. W. Hall, who owned a ranch a few miles from the old Stirrup Ranch, was treed by Old Mose and lived to tell about it. Jake Radliff, a famous hunter, was hunting with Henry Seymour and a man by the name of Cory. Each had gone off in his own direction to hunt when Radliff crossed the path of Old Mose near the Park County-Fremont County line. Old Mose circled around and attacked him from behind, severely mauling him. When he cried out for help several minutes after Old Mose had left, the grizzly returned and mauled him again. Cory was the first to reach Radliff, who was still conscious and talking; he told Cory of the attack before losing consciousness. Cory and Seymour carried Radliff to the Mulock Ranch on Badger Creek, where he succumbed to his injuries before medical help could arrive. Pop Rudolph of Canon City was killed by Old Mose on Cameron Mountain. J. W. Asher also lost his life to Old Mose. A skeleton of a cowboy believed to have been killed by Old Mose was found on Thirtynine Mile Mountain. Cattle were killed and fences were torn down on the Stirrup and other nearby ranches.

Wharton H. Pigg, who owned the Stirrup Ranch in 1904, contracted with J. W. Anthony, a noted bear hunter, to hunt down and exterminate Old Mose. Anthony brought his pack of 30 trained bear dogs with him, and for two months they tracked and hunted the grizzly. Death finally came to Old Mose, surrounded by Anthony's dogs, on 26 April 1904, after he took six shots from the hunter's 30-40. Mose was said to weigh 450 kg after hibernation (today's grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier parks weigh 90-180 kg) (Bruggers, 1999). His carcass was estimated to weigh 225 kg, he measured 2.7 m from head to tail, and he was reported to have been shot nearly a hundred times before the end came. The bear had lost two toes and a portion of his left hind foot in a trap, and a claw was missing from his right forefoot. Today the pelt and skull of Old Mose reside in a climate-controlled locker at the University of California, Berkeley (Bruggers, 1999) (figure 4.2).

The true age of Old Mose is unknown. Simmons (1966) stated that there was a bounty on his head for 35 years. Bair (1959) reported that he was 40 years old when killed. Copies of correspondence between James Perkins and David Brown, in the appendix to Perkins (1991), indicate that one of Old Mose's teeth was sectioned in the Arizona Game and Fish

Schedel Van Een Alleseter Vos
FIGURE 4.2 Old Mose. Skull, University of California, Berkeley, MVZ 113385. (Drawn by Karen Klitz.)

Department's laboratory by Bill Carrell, a specialist in determining age from teeth. He concluded that Old Mose had been 10-12 years old at death.

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