Out and About | Beware the drop bear ... and other dangers

Some American friends recently remarked how brave Aussies are because the bush is teeming with deadly snakes and venomous spiders, not to mention the crocs and sharks.

I assured them we take such threats in our stride, before pointing out that the most fearsome predator of all is Thylarctos plummetus, also known as the Drop Bear, a creature described by the Australian Museum as “around the size of a leopard with coarse orange fur...” who “...hunts ground dwelling animals from above, waiting for hours to make a surprise kill.”

Australian Geographic magazine claims that “While Drop Bears do not specifically target human beings, there have been several cases where bushwalkers have fallen victim to Drop Bear attacks, resulting in serious lacerations and even death.” 

My friends were uneasy when I told them the University of Tasmania’s Dr Volker Janssen claims “It has been confirmed that foreigners are much more likely to be dropped on than Australians”, attributing this behaviour to our liking for vegemite.

He suggests bushwalkers can defend themselves from these unprovoked attacks by wearing forks in their hair and by smearing vegemite behind their ears and under their armpits!

Of course, the urban myth of Drop Bears is just that, but anyone heading bush needs to make sure they follow some simple safety rules, including:

 – Walk in groups of three or more. (In an emergency someone can wait with an injured person while the other seeks help.)

- Check weather forecasts and acknowledge that weather conditions can change suddenly.

- Be aware mobile phone service is not always available. If walking in remote areas carry a PLB (personal  locator beacon) which can be used in an emergency.

- Take plenty of water, snacks and a first aid kit. In hot weather carry a snake bandage.

- Wear appropriate clothing, including a windproof and waterproof jacket and closed-toe footwear.

- Let others know your destination, your intended route and expected return time.

- Carry a compass and a topographic map and know how to use them.

If you’re serious about going bush consider joining a local bushwalking club such as the Border Bushwalking Club, where you can gain invaluable tips and advice while walking with experienced bushwalkers. 

Find more Drop Bear info visit www.australianmuseum.net.au/drop-bear and www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2013/04/drop-bears-target-tourists,-study-says/