Chasing the Ghost Bear

Chasing the Ghost Bear

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On the Trail of America’s Lost Super Beast

By Mike Stark

No animal shakes the human consciousness quite like a bear, and few compare to the giant short-faced bears that stalked North America during the Pleistocene. Even among the mammoths and saber-toothed cats, they were a staggering sight: on all fours, the biggest would stare a six-foot person in the face and weigh close to a ton. On hind legs they towered more than ten feet, with jaws powerful enough to crush skulls and snap bones like twigs.

The bears weren’t invincible, however. Despite their size, they were swept off the planet in a mysterious wave of Ice Age extinctions more than ten thousand years ago, then mostly forgotten. Chasing the Ghost Bear is Mike Stark’s journey into the bear’s enigmatic story—its life, disappearance, and rediscovery—and those trying to piece it together today. An engaging guide through his intrepid search, Stark’s story leads us from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles to a cornfield in Indiana, the far ends of the Arctic, the plains of Texas, and the swamps of Florida.

Part natural history, part travelogue, and part meditation on extinction and loss, Chasing the Ghost Bear returns these magnificent beasts to their rightful place in our understanding of the world just an epoch past.

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