Mac Farlanes Bear

Unknown variety of Bear of northern Canada.

Scientific name: Vetularctos inopinatus, proposed by C. Hart Merriam in 1918.

P^hysical description: Whit ish buff t o pale yellowish buff, dar kening t o pale r eddish br own on the underside. Broad head. Ears set like a dog's. Square, long muzzle. Teeth are unlike the brown bear's, presenting a combination of long canines and well-developed cusps with broadly flattened surfaces; the cusps of the upper first and second molars are reduced, while the lower second molar lacks the posterior cusp and notch. Wide at the shoulders. Hair on the bot -t om of it s paws. Hind claws ar e as big as t he front claws.

Distribution: Canadian Arct ic; Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Significant sightings: The only known specimen was killed near Rendezvous Lake, Northwest Territories (65°52' N, 127°01' W) by Inuit hunters on June 24, 1864. The skin and skull were obtained by Roderick MacFarlane and shipped to t he Smit hsonian Inst it ut ion, wher e it was examined by C. Hart Merriam.

In t he lat e ninet eent h cent ury, Caspar Whit -ney heard of a species of bear in the Canadian North that resembled a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly.

In 1943, Clara Helgason reminisced about an incident many years earlier when hunters on Kodiak Island, Alaska, shot a large, off-white bear wit h hair on t he soles of it s paws. Possible explanations:

(1) A Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) x Brown bear (Ursus arctos) hybrid, which does occur somet imes in the wild.

(3) A surviving Short -faced bear (Arctodus simus), an immense fossil bear and t he largest North American carnivore of the Ice Age. Ar ct ic specimens dat e fr om 44,000-20,000 years ago; a Wyoming skull dates from 11,500 years ago. C. Hart Merriam thought the teeth resembled Arctodus and it s r elat ive t he Spect acled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) of South America more than Ursus.

Sources: Caspar Whitney, On Snow-Shoes to the Barren Grounds (New York: Harper, 1896); Charles Mair and Roderick MacFarlane, Through the Mackenzie Basin (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent, 1908), pp. 217-218; C. Hart Merriam, Review of the Grizzly and Big Brown Bears of North America (Genus UrsusJ with Description of a New Genus, Vetularctos (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918), pp. 131-133; George G. Goodwin, " Inopinatus: The Unexpected," Natural History 55 (November 1946): 404-406; Jim Halfpenny, "Tracking the Great

Bear: Mystery Bears," Bears and Other Top Predators Magazine, Spring 1996, on line at ht t p://www.crypt t icles/ myst er ybear s.php.

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