By Rachael Funk
Though a reasonably safe travel destination, Australia has issued travel advisories due to an influx in a deadly species commonly known as “Drop Bears.” Before you travel, please review the following information and take proper action to protect yourself from one of Australia’s most aggressive predators.
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Found in southeastern Australia, the Drop Bear (Thylarctos plummetus) is an arboreal marsupial related to the koala. Though they look very similar to koalas, an adult Drop Bear can grow to the size of a large dog. Tourists have confused adolescent Drop Bears for koalas and suffered viscous attacks, so be on your guard and never approach an animal in the wild. Even if you’re pretty sure it’s just a koala.
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As the name suggests, Drop Bears attack from above. Avid hunters, they make quick work of their prey by diving from trees and attacking at the neck for a quick kill. Drop Bears move silently despite their size and do not always precede an ambush with their shrill, bone-chilling yowl. Their powerful jaws and sharp teeth can crush through bone, making it very difficult to survive a fight against a Drop Bear.
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Aggressive and territorial, these animals target slow-moving mammals who encroach on their space. The majority of human prey tend to be bushwalking tourists unaware they’ve wandered into Drop Bear zones. Often, signs will be posted in areas which have a higher rate of bear-related incidents, but experts have not yet found a safe way to corral wild, bloodthirsty Drop Bears. Extreme caution is advised regardless of signage.
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Drop Bears depend on the element of surprise for a successful attack, which means making eye contact is often enough to head off a drop. Unfortunately, Drop Bears can climb to heights that make them near impossible to spot, so secondary measures are recommended as well. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they can’t see you.
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Thanks to their highly developed sense of smell, Drop Bears are sensitive to strong, unnatural odors such as vegemite or toothpaste. A generous layer of either applied to the sweat glands of the underarms and behind the ears is usually pungent enough to repel the bears. They are also very cautious about where they land, so prominently displaying items that will make landing dangerous to the Drop Bear (such as braiding upturned forks into your hair) has been proven mostly effective to avoiding attacks.
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If you are planning a trip through tree-dense areas of southeastern Australia or its surrounding islands, be sure to pack the above-mentioned precautionary items. The highest occurrences of recorded sightings usually begin around April 1st each year, as the animals prepare for the breeding season in early summer. As with all travel, remain on your guard, be aware of your surroundings, and never approach a wild animal. If you have further concerns, feel free to discuss them with your local tour guide or any Australians you may know - they will be overjoyed to answer all of your Drop Bear-related inquiries.