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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Booger Bears

This is a matter wherin I had early input in a matter that Ivan Sanderson and his widow claimed no knowledge of the subject. In 1967 in Kentucky, a mysterious creature that walked on its hind feet and stood between 6 and 7 feet tall was stealing cattle. I had read the account in a scholastic magazine and sent in a report to the SITU. At that time I received the reply "It sounds as though you are talking about an ABSM" and sure enough, the event is included in the "Miscellaneous Bigfoot" sightings included in John Keel's Mysterious Beings, Formerly Strange Creatures From Time and Space, listed under Kentucky in 1967. Only that was not the whole story: the creature had been caught and killed and was reported to have both catlike and doglike features, a sort of short-faced bear that weighed something like 650 pounds and was clearly not a black bear. When I had a radio interview on the Oopa Loopa cafe some years back, the owner of the Internet cafe said he had heard of the incident because he had lived near that area at the time. The animal had been baited out by a calf tied to a stake and then shot when it came for the calf. Rick Ozman (
 Owner of the Blog) gave the Native name for the creature over the air which sounded like Wod or Wog. At any rate, his recollection confirmed mine and much improved over the news clippings which the SITU had on the subject.

In going over the various "Big Hairy Monster" reports of the Eastern United States, I began to notice that some of them were describing a sort of short-faced bear generally conforming to this sighting, often compared to a cat-faced bear or an African lion standing on its hind legs. The usual designation in the Apallachian mountain region and the Ozarks is "Booger Bear" to distinguish it from the common black bear, and it is said to be much larger (and particularly taller with a higher profile) and tending to walk on its hind legs. Sightings of such creatures are recorded in collections published by John Keel, Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, but the general category not recognised in those collections. It is found over a wide area including Texas and Oklahoma to Florida and up into Canada indefinitely far, but over all that area only in small local enclaves where reports come with some regularity. The reports are much more common in mountain country than elsewhere but reports also occur in swamps and along river courses (they seem to travel along the riverbeds)

Arctodus, the Original "Grizzly Bear"

Ivan T. Sanderson mentions in Living Mammals of the World that what the early settlers in the West were calling a "Grizzly Bear" was a specialist predator on bison in the high plains area, a much different and much larger bear than the animal which we call the Grizzly, and one which appeaered to be extinct with the killing off of the bison. I take this unidentified bear to be a survival of the Ice-Age giant Shortfaced bear, Arctodus simius or "Monkeylike bear-creature." in an article about the puroported Vetularctos in Natural History magazine,reports of an unknown "Bulldog bear" able to carry off a moose were stated to come from Northwest Territories and even into Northern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. It was presumed these reports were related to a surviving Arctodus. The reports of this bear are outside the usual range of Grizzly bears and in fact the range of Sanderson's "Grizzly Bear Bison-eater" lived in an area outside of the usual range of the Grizzly bear. The reports of Shortfaced bears in the Midwestern areas of the USA are likewise outside of usual Grizzly bear range but are in the range where the Ice-age Arctodus once lived.

Similar reports also come from Far-Eastern Siberia.
Bering Sea huntsman Rodin Sivobolov of north Kamchatka reintroduced the cryptozoological creature in the late 80’s. From the description of natives, Sivobolov learned of a beast know alternatively as the Kainyn-Kutho (god bear) and Irkuiem (‘pants pulled down’). It was described as having forelegs longer than hind, and a bulge of fat between its legs that often reaches the ground, resembling pulled-down pants and giving the animal its second name. In 1989 there was a report of a mystery bear feared by Kamchatkan reindeer herders, and said to come across the Chukchi Sea on Alaskan ice floes. N.K. Vereshchagin proposed the most radical theory, in which he suggested the bear was surviving Actrodus simus, a giant prehistoric bear that stood almost 6 ft at the shoulder. It matched the Irkuimen in the fact that it had forelegs longer than hind, and in fact it had the limb proportions of a Gorilla.

McFarlanes bear of Canada’s Northwest Territory had an unusual cream-colored coat and an unusually formed head. Supposedly, one was shot at the Anderson River, and the animal’s skin and skull are now somewhere in the Smithsonian. Another account, possibly describing the same specimen, tells of a bear that was killed at Rendezvous Lake in 1816. An early taxonomist described the animal as ‘Buffy whitish’ with a golden-brown muzzle, and identified it as a new genus and species, Vetularctos inopinatus, claiming it probably was descended from the prehistoric short-faced bear. It could just have been an aberrant specimen, a unique subspecies, or a polar/grizzly bear cross (Ursus martimus x arctos). The specimen was later located in storage at the Smithsonan and DNA tests said it was an ordinary grizzly bear; however since the skin had been in storage together with many brown bear hides over many decades, some form of contamination could not be ruled out.

Reconstructions of Shortfaced Bears, Monkeybears, Bulldog Bears or even sometimes called "Man-faced Bears"

In South America, the Red mountain bear, a small reddish-colored bear of the Muscarens Mountains of Columbia, is well-known to natives, and Peru reputedly houses the Pygmy brown bear, wich may very well be the same animal. Both animals are possible color variants of the spectacled bear Tremarctos, descendant of the ancient short-faced bears.

The Milne From Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia, is described as an enormous black bear living in the deep jungles of South America. The most famous encounter was by the famed explorer Leonard Clark in 1946, while floating down the Ucayali River in eastern Peru. He first came across the animal's footprints in the riverbank, measuring 14 inches long and resembling those of a giant man. The second day he found the source of the strange tracks – as they floated down the river, they passed a huge black bear, clawing apart a rotted tree infested with ants in order to get at the larva. As they passed, one on the crew members sharply slapped his paddle in the water, startling the bear so that leapt into the river and began to swim across. As the rafts neared the bear, it turned and swam towards them, either because it was curious, angry, or wanted to crawl out of the river. When the bear was within 3 feet of the raft, the crew leapt overboard, and knowing the animal would upset the craft, Leonard shot it with his pistol. Without his crew, unfortunately, Leonard could not drag the bear's carcass aboard before the piranhas started feeding on it, and was forced to abandon his specimen.

This depiction of an Ucumar shows a bear's distinctive ears, eyes and nose. The nails rather than claws on the hands and feet come from the asumption that the creature is like Bigfoot.

The Ucu, sometimes called Ucumar or Ukumar-zupai, is a reported Apelike or Bigfoot like creature thought to live in the mountainous regions in and around Chili and Argentina. The name is unfortunmately ambiguous and can be used to refer to a bear, bearlike monkey, monkeylike bear, bear-man or Bogey-bear with equal ease. The Ucu is described to be the size of a large dog and can walk erect. According to natives the Ucu likes to eat payo, a plant with an inside similar to cabbage, and emits a sound like uhu, uhu, uhu, which Ivan T. Sanderson compared to the noises reported by Albert Ostman, who claimed to have been held captive by a family of Sasquatch in 1924. (Bears and gorilla both also make a similar noise: so did King Kong in the 1933 movie)

One of the first documented sightings of the Ucu took place in May of 1958 when a group of campers in Rengo, 50 miles from Santiago, Chili, reported that they saw what they could only describe as an ape man. Police were called out to investigate; they took reports from the witnesses, one of which was Carlos Manuel Soto who swore that he had seen an enormous man covered with hair in the Cordilleras, one of the Santiago’s 6 provinces.

In 1956, geologist Audio L. Pich found seventeen inch long human like footprints on the Argentina side of the Andes Mountains at a height of over sixteen thousand feet. The following year similar tracks where discovered in the province of La Salta, Argentina. Not long after, residents of Tolor Grande informed newspaper reporters of a nightly chorus of what they described as eerie calls emanating from the near by Curu-Curu Mountains. The cries, which where attributed by the locals to a creature known as the Ukumar-zupai, frightened the community for some time, and according to anthropologist Pablo Latapi Ortega, traditions of these giant creatures continue to this very day in Argentina.

Size: 5 – 7 feet tall in more tropical areas [Patagonian Giant Ucu, 6-12 feet tall]

Variant names: Sachayoj, Ucu, Ukumar-zupai (in Tolar Grande). In Bolivia and Peru, the spectacled bear is known as Ucamari or Jucamari.

Physical description: Half man, half bear. Covered in long, shaggy black hair. Small eyes. Large hands and feet. sharp fangs in mouth.
Behavior: Bipedal. Makes eerie, ululating calls (“uhu, uhu”) at night. Eats vegetation and animal matter, wild fruit and honey.
Tracks: Humanlike. Length, 14-17 inches.

Habitat: Mountains, caves, wildreness and rocky areas.

Small and large Shortfaced bears, skeleton comparison from Bjorn Kurten.

Shape of Skeletons compared for La Brea Lion, Spotted Hyena, Brown Bear, Wolf and Arctodus the giant Short-faced bear, by Bjorn Kurten.

Short-Faced Bear Map: Bjorn Kurten assumes that the larger Shortfaced beard of the Arctodus type colonised South America along the Atlantic coast while the smaller, Tremarctos-type shortfaced bears colonised alomg the Western part of the continent, along the Andes. The larger bears also went inland from the coast and could well be the ancestors of the Milne in Colombia and the Ucumars of Chile and Argentina

Map for distribution of bears in the world. In the case of the Larger Shortfaced bears, they are mostly reported in areas where brown bears aren't usually supposed to be found, except for the Irkuiem in Kamchatka, and they are supposed to come from Alaska.

[Please note also that bears are absent from large parts of Tibet in this map from Wikipedia]

Ivan T. Sanderson, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961)
..........Living Mammals of the World (1956, p. 201, under URSINES, Brown Bears)
John Keel, Strange Creatures From Time and Space
Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman, Creatures of the Outer Edge (1976)
Simon Chapman, The Monster of the Madidi: Searching for the Giant Ape of the Bolivian Jungle (London: Aurum, 2001)


  1. One of the websites that spoke of the shortfaced bears said that they were designed to run on their hind legs. That would be carrying things too far. They are designed to run like an outsized chimpanzee and perhaps walk on their hind legs better than most bears. But I don't think they would run very well on their shorter pair of legs.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  2. Hi Dale,

    Just to point out, the picture you used at the top to show the scale of "_Arctodus_" compared to a human does not show _Arctodus_. This is _Arctotherium_ (from Soibelzon and Schubert (2011)), the largest bear yet discovered, so be aware that the two are very separate animals.

    Also, have a look here:


  3. Surprise! we have a conflict of experts here. The Bjorn Kurten material herin quoted calls the Arctotherium an obsolete genus name and sinks it into Arctodus: this is indicated on one of the maps. Furthermore the issue of poor rreconstructions goes both ways: far too many reconstructions make much too long of a snout on the beast given the actual shortness of the snout on the skull.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  4. Dale,

    I thought the Milne had been debunked as a hoax-AA Milne being the author of the Winnie The Pooh stories? I'm sure I've read that in someone's book!


  5. A lot of people have stated that it sounds peculiar and it is a strange coincidence (including Karl Shuker) However, nobody has actually come right out and said that it means the creature itself is a hoax. And if there is somebody that calls such a creature a "Paddington" they are probably going to be about right--Paddington was supposed to have been a South American bear originally.

    Part of the problem is that the spelling used by the press is to some extent arbitrary-- the name does not have to be spelled the same way as the name of the author of the Winnie the Pooh books. And if that is so, there is no real connection, because the only thing that connects the unknown bear and the author is that their names are spelled the same way.

    The word is given as Arawak in origin. It would be pronounced "Mill-Nee" or "Mill-Nay." A.A. Milne's name is of course not pronounced exactly the way it is written: English has a silent e and that is different from most other languages in the world. And the "Official" languages of Latin America, Spanish and Portugese, also do NOT pronounce "Milne" the same way as people in England pronounce the name of the author.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  6. Hello Mr. Drinnon!
    Okay, this is out there but I had recently developed a possible theory as to what Justin Smeja shot. I understand that he left after shooting the creatures, and found the "steak" later so that probably explains why the DNA of the "steak" was of a black bear. But he did say that the steak seemed similar to the flesh of the creatures he shot, and it got me thinking. What if what Justin Smeja shot were not Sasquatch, but actually some kind of genetic mutation of a black bear. I have heard of genetic mutations which make animals have features of prehistoric ancestors (like the four flipper dolphin found and the chicken embryos with teeth) so what if a black bear had mutations that made it look like an Arctodus? When Justin first came out with his story, he referred to the creatures as "weird looking bears" and he described the alleged babies as crosses between a bear and a gorilla. It sounds unlikely, but what if a black bear had acquired a genetic mutation that made it similar to an Arctodus (with the short face which would give a gorilla like look) and also passed it on to its cubs? I realized too that the "steak" didn't have the appearance of the fur of a usual black bear, even of one that was of a browner color. I wonder if Justin's story was blurred by everyone telling him that what he shot were Sasquatch, when he actually shot what he said they were originally: very weird bears! Just a theory of mine, and I thought I would share it with you to get your opinion.


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