- Re sparrowbee's suggestion, there is certainly historical anecdotal evidence that iconic Australian songs have been an element in deterring drop bear attacks. But as has been noted in this correspondence, you must always be conscious of their adaptability to circumstances. If you're going to try anything from Cold Chisel, for instance, start with the first verse, and pause, say, halfway through the third line. If the drop bear goes on to complete the line, you're going to need your vegemite. (Chico rolls, on the other hand, seem to have been effective deterrents to just about anything that drops, or bites, or breathes ...)
- I want to thank the two correspondents who contacted me regarding their families’ experiences with Drop Bears, though in respect of Mary T.’s great aunt and her reputed hairy companion or “pet” I admit some confusion as to who did the dropping. Of great historical interest however is my second correspondent who reports on stories told to him by his grandfather of his own grandfather, who lived on Kangaroo Island in the early nineteenth century. At that time the island was a base for whalers, sealers, escaped convicts and even pirates. According to my correspondent, Drop Bears were as plentiful as Kangaroos, but far less pleasant eating, so while Kangaroo populations deteriorated from hunting, Drop Bears were only killed in self-defence; they were affected however by the local timber industry, and the felling of forest tree for building and for ships’ repairs. In some areas they disappeared as their habitat declined, but my correspondent’s ancestor described a quite remarkable adaptation by Bears in at least one region of the island – they learned to launch attacks from the ground. Apparently they would hide in undergrowth beside animal tracks or even human pathways, and leap out at passing prey, fastening on to their lower extremities. In fact one particular strain (according to my correspondent’s ancestor) took to disguising themselves as largish tufts of dried grass, or piles of windblown leaves and twigs, even dried logs, and lying on the pathways. Just as animals or humans ventured to step over them, they would leap upwards, gripping their prey with their teeth. Interestingly (he says), and we must be mindful that women were very much a minority on the island in those lawless days, the only reports of attacks on humans were on men, and the injuries were something fierce. Locals came to rename this strain of the animal Jump Bears, but my correspondent reports that his grandfather’s grandfather called them Squirrels. This (he says) was partly due to a sort of nostalgia for European woodlands and woodland animals for which there were no counterparts on the island and therefore no cause for confusion in the name, but mainly because they took nuts.
- I'm interested to know if anyone has ever tried to keep or raise these animals as pets. There has been very little research on this, but there are records of land settlers in the early nineteenth century having drop bears in confinement, though it is uncertain whether they were for display, or kept and fed in some sort of domestic arrangement. A caged bear is recorded, and one or two on some kind of leash in a tree. They may have been trained to catch prey for human consumption. This was pre-vegemite, of course, and pre-toothpaste for most, so there would seem to have been the very real danger of losing offspring or smaller visitors. At any rate records are few and limited to a few years.