Ungava brown bear

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Ungava brown bear
Temporal range: Late Pleistocene – Recent
Ungava Cabot 1910 Cropped.jpg
1910 photograph, described under Ursus arctos ungavaesis
Extinct  (c.1950) [1]
Scientific classification
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U. a. ungavaesis / horribilis

The Ungava brown bear (formerly Ursus arctos ungavaesis) is an extinct population of grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) that inhabited the forests of northern Quebec and Labrador until the early 20th century. Other names are the "Labrador grizzly bear" [2] and "Labrador-Ungava grizzly." [1] Reports of its existence were doubtful at best, until a skull was unearthed by anthropologist Steven Cox in 1975. [1] [3]

Contents

Distribution

The Ungava brown bear originally occurred in the northern part of the Labrador Peninsula known as the Ungava Peninsula in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Labrador. Its habitat was similar to other grizzlies, including boreal forest and tundra. [4]

Discovery

Until concrete evidence suggesting its existence was discovered in 1975, biologists typically discounted the idea that a brown bear had once roamed northern Quebec. Various reports of brown bears from 1900 to 1950 were written off as colour morphs of the more common American black bear. [1] [3]

Early evidence

One of the earliest pieces of evidence supporting the existence of a brown bear in Labrador is a map of the region drawn in 1550 by French cartographer Pierre Desceliers, which depicts three bears on the coast. One bear is white and is certainly a polar bear, while the other two are brown. [2]

In the late 1700s, Labrador area trader George Cartwright wrote in his journal of a bear with markings consistent to those of young grizzly bears: [2] [5]

The beasts, are bears both black and white (of the latter I am told there are two kinds, one of which have a white ring around their necks... "They are very ferocious,"...

George Cartwright, [5]

Fur trappers' reports from local Moravian mission posts indicate that brown bear pelts were regularly recorded from the 1830s to the 1850s. [3]

Photographic evidence

The first photographic evidence of bears in Labrador dates to 1910. American ethnologist and northern explorer William Brooks Cabot made several visits to the Labrador region between 1899 and 1925, studying the Innu people. While on a canoeing expedition with Innu hunters, Cabot came upon and photographed a bear skull mounted on a pole. Upon examination of this photograph, by comparing it to other bear skulls, Harvard anthropologists Arthur Spiess and Stephen Loring concluded in 2007 that the skull belonged to a small brown bear. [4]

Okak excavation

In the summer of 1975, Harvard anthropologist Steven Cox discovered a small bear skull while excavating an Inuit midden on Okak Island in Labrador. The specimen consists of a nearly complete cranium, as well as several molars. The skull is the property of the Province of Newfoundland and is currently held in the Newfoundland Museum. By studying wear on the molars, Cox determined that the skull belonged to a full-grown but small female grizzly bear. [1] The discovery of more bear bones in the area is unlikely, due to the Innu practice of consuming, utilizing or otherwise disposing of every part of hunted animals. [4]

Extinction

It is not known exactly when the Ungava brown bear died out, but reports of their sightings slowly declined throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and the population was most likely extinct by the latter part of the 20th century, [1] at least partly due to persecution by fur trappers. [2]

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Ungava Peninsula

The Ungava Peninsula of Nunavik, Quebec, Canada, is bounded by Hudson Bay to the west, Hudson Strait to the north, and Ungava Bay to the east. This peninsula is part of the Labrador Peninsula, and covers about 252,000 square kilometres (97,000 sq mi). Its northernmost point is Cape Wolstenholme, which is also the northernmost point of Quebec. The peninsula is also part of the Canadian Shield, and consists entirely of treeless tundra dissected by large numbers of rivers and glacial lakes, flowing generally east–west in a parallel fashion. The peninsula was not deglaciated until 6,500 years ago and is believed to have been the prehistoric centre from which the vast Laurentide Ice Sheet spread over most of North America during the last glacial epoch.

Torngat Mountains Mountain range in eastern Canada

The Torngat Mountains are a mountain range on the Labrador Peninsula at the northern tip of Newfoundland and Labrador and eastern Quebec. They are part of the Arctic Cordillera. The mountains form a peninsula that separates Ungava Bay from the Atlantic Ocean.

District of Ungava

The District of Ungava was a regional administrative district of Canada's Northwest Territories from 1895 to 1920, although it effectively ceased operation in 1912. It covered the northern portion of what is today Quebec, the interior of Labrador, and the offshore islands to the west and north of Quebec, which are now part of Nunavut.

Ursid hybrid Bear hybrids

An ursid hybrid is an animal with parents from two different species or subspecies of the bear family (Ursidae). Species and subspecies of bear known to have produced offspring with another bear species or subspecies include black bears, grizzly bears and polar bears, all of which are members of the genus Ursus. Bears not included in Ursus, such as the giant panda, are expected to be unable to produce hybrids with other bears. Note all of the confirmed hybrids listed here have been in captivity, but suspected hybrids have been found in the wild.

Grizzly–polar bear hybrid Cross between grizzly and polar bear

A grizzly–polar bear hybrid is a rare ursid hybrid that has occurred both in captivity and in the wild. In 2006, the occurrence of this hybrid in nature was confirmed by testing the DNA of a unique-looking bear that had been shot near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic. The number of confirmed hybrids has since risen to eight, all of them descending from the same female polar bear.

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Ursus dolinensis is an extinct mammalian carnivore species of the Ursidae family. Its fossilized remains were unearthed from the lowest layers of the stratigraphic sequence at the archaeological and paleontological site of Gran Dolina, that is a part of the Atapuerca Mountains complex in the Burgos province, northern Spain. The species was described by Nuria Garcia and Juan Luis Arsuaga in a 2001 publication. Skeletal fossils, mainly cranial fragments were recovered from the sediment units TD 3 and in particular TD 4. Presence in these layers suggests a chronology in between 900,000 and 780,000 years ago, which falls into the Calabrian stage of the early Pleistocene.

Formerly or currently considered subspecies or populations of brown bears have been listed as follows:

Dietary biology of the brown bear

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Low Arctic tundra Tundra ecoregion of Canada

The Low Arctic tundra ecoregion covers a rolling landscape of shrubby tundra vegetation along the northern edge of mainland Canada along the border of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and a small portion in Quebec on the northeast coast of Hudson Bay. The region is important for large herds of caribou and other large mammals, and for large nesting colonies of birds such as snow geese. The region is mostly intact, with 95% remaining intact.

Torngat Mountain tundra

The Torngat Mountain tundra ecoregion covers the Torngat Mountains on the northeastern tip of the Labrador Peninsula where the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador meet. The mountains feature glacially carved U-shaped valleys and deep fjords. The vegetation over most of the territory is that of arctic tundra, herbaceous cover, or bare rock. The region supports seasonal polar bears, black bears, and caribou. The Atlantic coast is on the Atlantic Flyway for migratory birds.

References

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Spiess, Arthur; Cox, Steven (1976). "Discovery of the skull of a grizzly bear in Labrador" (PDF). Arctic. 29 (4): 194–200. doi:10.14430/arctic2804 . Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Busch, Robert (2004). The Grizzly Almanac. Globe Pequot. pp. 11–14. ISBN   978-1-5922-8320-0 . Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  3. 1 2 3 Elton, C. S. (1954). "Further Evidence about the Barren-Ground Grizzly Bear in Northeast Labrador and Quebec". Journal of Mammalogy. 35 (3): 345–357. doi:10.2307/1375959. JSTOR   1375959.
  4. 1 2 3 Loring, Stephen; Spiess, Arthur (2007). "Further Documentation Supporting the Former Existence of Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos) in Northern Quebec-Labrador" (PDF). Arctic. 60 (1): 7–16. doi:10.14430/arctic260 . Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  5. 1 2 Cartwright, George (1792). A Journal of Transactions and Events, During a Residence of Nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador. Newark, USA: Allin and Ridge. p.  228 . Retrieved 21 October 2014. A Journal of Transactions and Events during a Residence of nearly Sixteen Years on the Coast of Labrador.