Atlas Bear

Small BEAR of North Africa.

Scientific name: Ursus arctos crowtheri, proposed by Heinrich Schinz in 1844.

Physical description: Smaller than the American black bear (Ursus americanus) but more robust. Black or dark-brown hair, 4-5 inches long. Pointed muzzle. Short toes and claws. Behavior: Feeds on roots and fruits. Distribution: Atlas Mountains, Morocco; Djurdjura Mountains, Algeria.

Significant sightings: A specimen, described by Edward Blyth, was killed south of Tetouan, Morocco, in 1834 but was not preserved.

Jules René Bourguignat discovered fresh bear bones in caves in the Djurdjura Mountains, Algeria, in 1867 and collected stories about the living animal from local people. Present status: Probably extinct. Possible explanations:

(1) A surviving small subspecies of the Brown bear (Ursus arctos faidherbi) that lived in North Africa during the Pleistocene and later. The remains of one dating from A.D. 420-600 were found in a cave in the Djurdjura Mountains, Algeria, in 1989.

(2) Verbal accounts of the Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), which in Arabic is called dubbah, might be misinterpreted as referencing a bear (Arabic, debb). Sources: Edward Blyth (letter), Proceedings of the Zoological Society ofLondon 9 (1841): 63—65; Heinrich Schinz, Systematisches Verzeichniss aller bis jetzt bekannten Säugethiere (Solothurn, Switzerland: Jent und Gassmann, 1844-45); Henri Aucapitaine, "Sur la question de l'existence d'ours dans les montagnes de l'Afrique Septentrionale," Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences 50 (1860): 655-656; Jules René Bourguignat, Histoire du Djebel-Thaya et des ossements fossiles recueilles dans la grande Caverne de la Mosquée (Paris: Challamel Ainé, 1870); Watik Hamdine, Michel Thevenot, and Jacques Michaux, "Histoire récente de l'ours brun au Maghreb," Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences (Sciences de la Vie) 321 (1998): 565-570.

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