Artist’s impression of an Atlas bear (Bear Conservation)

Scientific name:  Ursus arctos crowtheri (Heinrich Rudolf Schinz, 1844)

Description:  Small for a brown bear and of a similar length to a black bear but with a more stocky build, proably weighing up to around 450 kg.  Fur was brown-black except for the underparts which were a distinctive reddish brown.  Claws and muzzle were relatively small and the muzzle lacked any white markings.

Range:  The Atlas bear was found in and around the region of the Atlas Mountains of North Africa from present-day Morocco to Libya, and was the only African bear subspecies to survive into the historic era.  In prehistoric times the range was probably much greater throughout northern and eastern Africa.

Atlas Mountains region of North Africa (Williamborg – Public Domain)

Habitat:  Mainly forested mountain regions.

Life span:  Presumed to have been in the region of 25 years in the wild.

Food:  Acorns, nuts, roots, small mammals and carrion.

Behaviour:  Little is known about the Atlas bear and its lifecycle.

Reasons for extinction:  Thousands of these bears were hunted for sport from the time of the Roman Empire in Africa (starting 146 BCE) onwards.  The last known specimen was probably killed by hunters in the 1870s in the Tétouan Mountains in the far north of the Rif mountains of Morocco.


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Page updated 11 February 2021