A Tale: “Mr. Dooley, Her Story.” The Tragic Tale of a Captive Grizzly — Dan Beard, 1907

Today most people know it’s not wise to capture young animals and try to tame them. Such “adoptions” may seem like acts of kindness, but they usually end in tragedy. Sometimes when people discover that baby animals are hard to care for, they return them to place where they found them, but the youngsters fail to re-connect with the mothers and die. 

Mr. Dooley

Sketches of “Mr. Dooley” by Dan Beard.

Even if the animals seem tame when they are young, when they grow up they can become dangerous. Often they run away, but because they’ve lost their fear of humans, they’re vulnerable to hunters.

A century ago, people were far less sensitive to these problems as is demonstrated by this story published by Dan Beard in 1907. Beard was a famous author and illustrator, who founded the Sons of Daniel Boone in 1905 and merged the group with the Boy Scouts of America in 1910.

Beard loved the animals he wrote about and illustrated. Here’s his story about the tragic life of Mr. Dooley, a grizzly captured in Yellowstone Park


A few years ago, Mr. Walker, of the Yellowstone Park, while on horseback, ran down a silvertip cub, and when I sketched it the cub was fastened to a tree.

The cub was named Mr. Dooley, but there was some mistake in this, as the young monster was not a mister, as it appears “he” was a she.

I placed my sketching stool just out of reach of the cub, and, while I worked with my pencil, Mr. Dooley spent her time scraping the dirt with her paws, making long canals in the loose earth as she backed away, but all the time keeping her wicked little pig eyes fastened on me.

Every once in a while she would make a sudden savage rush at me and end it with a half-strangled, gurgling growl.

When the season was over, the commander of the post stated that he intended to send Mr. Dooley to the Washington Zoo. This grieved Mr. Walker, until the late Major Bach innocently asked if Dooley never escaped, and the next morning it was discovered that Dooley had escaped.

In the following spring, when Mrs. Walker arrived with her husband at the canyon, to open the hotel, Dooley was waiting to greet them on the broad veranda.

Time rolled on, and Dooley became a favorite visitor at the camps, and it was not an unusual sight to see a great, hulking, silver-tip bear wrestling with the guides and enjoying the fun as much as the astonished spectators.

Dooley, although a very, very bad little cub, broadened both in mind and body as she grew older, and adopted the Golden Rule as her moral code; but this was a sad mistake on the bear’s part. There perhaps never was a more gentle, better-hearted bear than Mr. Dooley, the great grizzly of Yellowstone Park. Far better would it have been for the lady bear with a gentleman’s name if she had adhered closely to the traditions of her race and developed into a surly, gruff, dangerous old girl, in place of the gentle, sweet-tempered creature she really made of herself. True, she would not have been petted and fed with prunes and sweetmeats, but she would have been much happier than she now is, poor thing!

The trouble with Mr. Dooley is that she made the mistake of applying the Golden Rule to human beings, and the human beings did not appreciate the generous nature of the bear.

Human beings are all right when they preach and when they write, but their brothers in fur will do well not to trust to the sincerity of the two-legged creatures’ sentiments.

Because the gentle grizzly of Yellowstone Park was guileless and unsuspicious, she (Mr. Dooley) was led into captivity, and is now imprisoned in a narrow iron-barred cell in the Washington Zoo.

And when the readers visit Washington, and see a big grizzly with its tongue lolling out of its mouth, and a far-away look in its eyes, they may know that it is the lady bear, known as Mr. Dooley, of Yellowstone Park, and that the poor girl is dreaming of her free life in the mountains, or her real friends, the guides and cooks of the camps, and Mr. and Mrs. Walker of the Canyon Hotel.

It is hoped that the visitors will take with them some little green thing—turnips, apples, or any vegetable, which will gladden the heart of the lady bear who trusted man to her sorrow.


— Text and illustration from “Mr. Dooley: Her Story” Pages 269-273 in Daniel Carter Beard, Dan Beard’s Animal Book and Campfire Stories. New York, Moffat, Yard and Company, 1907.

— For more stories like this, click on “bears” under the Categories button to the left.

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