Bergman’s Bear

I want to try something different on this rebooted The Lord Geekington. I have nothing new to add to my discussion on Bergman’s Bear and Hyper-Splitting, but I also didn’t feel like I was quite done with it. Also, I recently got a drawing tablet.

So what is supposed to be going on here? This is a dubious speculative creature, so I wanted the illustration to feel anachronistic and naive. Trying to put my own inexperience to good use, in other words. I attempted to imitate the old yellowing maps in Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance MapsMedieval illustrations of bears, and Olaus Magnus all at once, although the result doesn’t really look much like any of those. 

I exaggerated the short hair purportedly covering Bergman’s Bear to the point where this bear hardly seems to have any. Like my shrink-wrapped bear, this is really an excuse for showing off the freakishly long legs bears have underneath that fuzz. The wrinkles may look familiar to aficionados of hairless oddballs. The long snout is an exaggeration of the morphology Kamchatkan Brown Bears already have; I’m imagining a short-haired animal could look similarly bizarre, but just in case, I’m imagining this is an animal with particularly extreme morphology. This feature was also something of a protest against the prehistoric-survivor-mongering Arctodus¹ hypothesis.

Unlike the Cryptozoologicon, I’m not clever enough to come up with a scenario where this can be a distinct species². The best I can manage is that, let’s see, maybe there was a subpopulation of bears that was extremely adept at exploiting salmon — or maybe marine mammals? —and for some reason insulated themselves with more fat than fur. The longish snout I gave it sorta hints at this, although Bergman and Malaise made no mention of such a feature. But anyways, this purportedly distinct animal is just a relic from the era where people were interpreting one bear species as hundreds; there is absolutely no reason to take it seriously as a potentially unknown animal. Just thought I should mention that again.

¹ Although Arctodus didn’t actually have a short face. Or long legs. The popular image of these animals is nearly mythologized as a cryptid.

² Well, it was recently discovered that Cave Bears were living in far Eastern Siberia… of course they were small… and hundreds of kilometers away from Kamchatka… and thousands of years in the past. Such inconveniences don’t really stop avowed prehistoric survivorists though.

10 thoughts on “Bergman’s Bear”

    1. That description is for the “Irkuiem”, the other mythological bear from Kamchatka. The description is poorly sourced and a bit perplexing, but it likely refers to the awkward gait polar bears have when on ice:

      1. Thanks, that’s one funny video and that could be the right answer. I was thinking that arctodus or something similar would have a strange gait due to their slightly sloping back, something like a giantt plantigrade hyaena.

  1. Yep. The description of the caterpillar walk of the Irkuiem to me was always a description of common polar bear ice hunting behavior. How a black short-haired bear got merged with a white long-haired bear (that was obviously just a polar bear) and turned into Arctidus must be one of the silliest mysteries of cryptozoology. Honestly if you need a prehistoric survivor for the Irkuiem wouldn’t the Tyrant Sea bear (Ursus maritimus tyrannus) be a more logical fit?

    As for Bergman’s bear it seems to me to represent a Siberian equivalent to the Admirality bear. The Admiraly bear is a population of Kodiak bear found only on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska. According to ‘Prehistoric America’ by Miles Barton, Nigel bean, et all; Admiralty bears look different from their mainland counterparts in having short fur that is a much deeper brown, almost black, compaired to mainland bears. Analysis of the Admiralty Island bears has demonstrated that there is a clear genetic difference from mainland bears due to the aniamals isolation on islands for long periods. Still its considered a population of Kodiaks just as Bergman’s bear was no doubt a population of Kamchatka brown bear.

    By the way I am doing Bergman’s bear for a pack of Russian Animals for Zoo Tycoon 2 and your articles were godsends. I am defiantly using them for the info in the zoo encyclopedia. If you want to see my reconstruction of the animal see here:

    1. Glad you found the article useful!

      Shortly after publishing this, I found a photograph that shows a pretty good example of the “Bergman’s Bear” phenotype:

      I didn’t know that Admiralty Island bears had short, dark fur, how strange. The latest genetics work shows that bears from the ABC Islands (Admiralty, Baranof & Chichagof) have Polar Bear mtDNA:

      It seems that something similar happened in the Himalayas (that whole “Yeti DNA” thing) although… I really don’t understand the biogeography of such a situation.

  2. Thank you for the link to the pictures. I love how in the second image the bear in the back is so much larger and darker than the one in the foreground. The hair also seems shorter, no doubt due to how the light reflects from the darker hairs.

    The difference in color and hair length of the Admiralty bear was a surprise to me to. I never even heard of that bear until I got that book at the local library (I was researching ice Age horses at the time). They look so different compared to the typical big fluffy Kodiak. I wonder what local conditions contribute to their appearance since it’s obviously not the temperature?

      1. “Vetularctos inopinatus” is one of the *dozens* of species of Brown Bear C. H. Merriam described. Even Merriam thought it was a young female, the skull is quite small and has unworn teeth (I have no idea where the “giant” claim is coming from). He claimed that it had some dental features in common with Arctotherium and Tremarctos… but then noted they had lots of differences… but then claimed they were related anyways. So it seems to have been a case of a minor variant interpreted by a hyperactive taxonomist.

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