Lava Bears

What is a lava bear? I think it’s funny we never asked about this. Here is what I found out about it which was new to me, including the spelling of it as one word.

The lavabear (also known as sand lapper, dwarf grizzly, and North American sun bear) is a variety of American black bear (Ursus americanus) found in the lava beds of south central Oregon. The animal was described as a very small bear with wooly light brown fur. The few lava bears that were killed or captured were a little larger than a badger.

In 1924, Bend Senior High School selected the lava bear as the school’s sports mascot. The mascot was chosen shortly after a living bear was exhibited in Bend. At the time, it was thought that lava bears might be a species unique to Central Oregon. In 2013, The Oregonian newspaper conducted a statewide survey, asking Oregon sports fans to identify their favorite high school team mascots. Fans from across the state of Oregon, selected Bend’s Lava Bear as their top pick for school mascot.

Excerpts from Wikipedia article about the lava bear: “In 1923, Alfred Andrews, a trapper for the United States Forest Service, reported killing a lava bear near Fort Rock. He sent the specimen to the Oregon biological survey office for examination. A year later, Andrews captured a live lava bear. The animal looked like a small grizzly bear, but weighed only 28 pounds (13 kg). It was a male, 30 inches (76 cm) long and 18 inches (46 cm) high. The Smithsonian offered Andrews $2,000 for the live lava bear, but he decided not to sell the animal. Instead, he announced plans to tour the country with the bear.  He displayed it in Portland, where 8,000 people paid to see the animal. It was also exhibited in Bend and Klamath Falls before being taken to Los Angeles. Eventually, Andrews’ partner Harry Thrall stole or sold the bear and the animal disappeared.”

“In the fall of 1924, a second lava bear was captured alive near Summer Lake. That bear weighed only 25 pounds (11 kg). Another lava bear was trapped by L. E. Oster in the lava beds northeast of Fort Rock in 1933.  A fourth lava bear was taken alive the following year by Walter Gore and Roy Yeager in an area east of Crescent Lake. It weighed 30 pounds (14 kg) and resembled a miniature grizzly.  The last animal identified as a lava bear was captured in 1934 by a forest road crew near Scar Mountain in the Willamette National Forest. It was 17 inches (43 cm) long and weighed 25 pounds (11 kg). It was exhibited for a time in McKenzie Bridge, Oregon, before the animal was sold to a man named Alfred Bayne. ” 

“As late as 1981, scientist were being asked to identify small bear tracks in the Fort Rock area to determine if they were made by lava bears.”

“Today, it is accepted that lava bears are actually common American black bears. It is also generally acknowledged that all of the animals that were killed or captured between 1917 and 1934 were either black bear cubs or small adults stunted from malnutrition.”

Adorable child made by Sandra Larson