Drop Bear Distribution Map
Drop Bear Distribution Map Image: Russ Weakley
Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    plummetus
    Genus
    Thylarctos
  • Size Range
    120kg, 130cm long, 90 cm at the shoulder.
  • Habitats
    closed forest, tall closed forest, tall open forest, tall open shrubland
  • Feeding Habits
    carnivorous
  • View Fossil Record
    Fossil Record
    Quaternary Period
    (1.8 million years ago - present)

The Drop Bear, Thylarctos plummetus, is a large, arboreal, predatory marsupial related to the Koala.

Identification

Around the size of a leopard or very large dog with coarse orange fur with some darker mottled patterning (as seen in most Koalas). It is a heavily built animal with powerful forearms for climbing and holding on to prey. It lacks canines, using broad powerful premolars as biting tools instead.

Habitat

Closed canopy forest as well as open woodland on the margins of dense forest. Never encountered near roads or human habitation.

Distribution

Drop Bears can be found in the densely forested regions of the Great Dividing Range in South-eastern Australia. However there are also some reports of them from South-east South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges and Kangaroo Island.

Feeding and diet

Examination of kill sites and scats suggest mainly medium to large species of mammal make a substantial proportion of the animal's diet. Often, prey such as macropods are larger than the Drop Bear itself.

Drop Bears hunt by ambushing ground dwelling animals from above, waiting up to as much as four hours to make a surprise kill. Once prey is within view, the Drop Bear will drop as much as eight metres to pounce on top of the unsuspecting victim. The initial impact often stuns the prey, allowing it to be bitten on the neck and quickly subdued.

If the prey is small enough Drop Bears will haul it back up the tree to feed without harassment from other predators.

Breeding behaviours

Breeding occurs during summer and usually one baby, or joey, is produced each year. After six months in the pouch, the joey is gradually weaned from milk.

Danger to humans

Bush walkers have been known to be 'dropped on' by drop bears, resulting in injury including mainly lacerations and occasionally bites. Most attacks are considered accidental and there are no reports of incidents being fatal.

There are some suggested folk remedies that are said to act as a repellent to Drop Bears, these include having forks in the hair or Vegemite or toothpaste spread behind the ears. There is no evidence to suggest that any such repellents work.