Sloth bear of Mysore

Sloth bear of Mysore

The Sloth bear of Mysore was an unusually aggressive Indian sloth bear responsible for the deaths of at least 12 people, and the mauling of two dozen others. It was killed by Kenneth Anderson, who in his memoirs Man-Eaters and Jungle Killers, described it as thus:

The reasons given to explain the Mysore sloth bear’s unusual behaviour varied. Some of the natives within the bear’s killing range thought that the bear was a sow taking revenge on humanity after her cubs were stolen. Others thought that it was a male which had previously abducted a young girl as its mate, only to have her rescued by the villagers, thus inciting the bear’s anger. Kenneth Anderson believed that the bear had previously been injured by humans and altered its behaviour accordingly.

First attacks

The bear began its attacks in the Nagvara Hills, east to the town of Arsikere, 105 miles north-west of Bangalore in Mysore State. It made its home in the numerous boulder strewn hillocks, from where it would come down to forage in the fields. As its boldness increased, it began harassing people in both daylight and night-time hours.

In typical sloth bear fashion, the animal attacked its victims faces with its claws and teeth. Those who survived its attacks usually lost one or both eyes, some their noses while others had their cheeks bitten through. Those who died often had their faces completely torn from their heads. At least three of the victims had been partially eaten.

First hunt for the bear

The bear’s depredations first came to the attention of Kenneth Anderson when an aged Muslim friend of his named Alam Bux sent him a postcard, urgently asking him to come to his home; a shrine situated between Arsikere and Shimoga. Bux’s 22 year old son had been fatally mauled by the bear at 21:00, having unintentionally disturbed it whilst it was feeding on fallen figs.

Anticipating an easy hunt, Anderson did not come prepared for a long trip, having brought with him for the hunt just a torch, a .405 Winchester rifle, and a single change of clothes. Arriving at the shrine at 5 in the evening, Anderson planned to wait until darkness to shoot the bear. Starting his search near fig trees, Anderson walked for a mile and a half with no luck in spotting the bear. He then unsuccessfully searched groundnut fields, before finally returning to the shrine. For the rest of the night, Anderson made two subsequent tours, both of which proved unsuccessful. At noon the next day, Anderson was taken to the mouth of what was thought to be the bears cave. After throwing stones into the crevice with no results, Anderson returned to Bangalore, asking Bux to inform him by telegram should the bear attack again.

Second hunt for the bear

One month later, two woodcutters in Sakrepatna, a small town between Chikmagalur and Kadur, had been seriously mauled by the bear, one fatally. Anderson was contacted by the District Forest Officer of Chikmagaiur who requested that Anderson come and shoot the bear. Anderson requested precise coordinates for the bear’s whereabouts, and was answered 10 days later that the bear lived in a hillock 3 miles from the town, near a footpath leading to a lake called the Ionkere. It was also revealed that the bear had since mauled the Forest Guard during a regular patrol. Anderson left for Chikmagalur and set up his headquarters in a small house owned by the Mysore Forest Department. At 4:30 pm the next afternoon, a man rushed to the bungalow, stating that the bear had mauled his brother, a cattle grazier near the hill where the bear had allegedly laired.

Setting forth with a rifle, a torch and 3-4 helpers, Anderson journeyed 6 miles into the jungle for an hour and a half before coming across a heavily scrubbed hill. The helpers refused to accompany him any further, and Anderson followed the general directions given by the victim’s brother of the attacks location. After searching for a while through the thick brush, Anderson heard the faint moans of the victim, whom he found lying at the foot of a tree, unconscious and severely mutilated. Realising that he was dying, Anderson carried the man for a short distance, before collapsing from a sprained ankle. The victim died at 5 in the morning, and Anderson was found later by Forest officials and a dozen villagers. He was hospitalised at Chikmagalur for a week before resuming the hunt.

Third hunt for the bear

During Anderson’s absence, the bear had mauled two men along the path of Ionkere Lake. Anderson arrived at Sakrepatna where he was told that the bear had taken to visiting some fields bordered by Boram trees a mile from the village. Anderson arrived at the site at 5:00 pm and spent the night at the foot of the largest tree, hoping that the bear would come. At roughly 11:00 pm, Anderson heard the bear digging for roots in the distance, and an hour later, it approached the Boram tree. Anderson shone his torch at the bear, which reared up on its hind legs in alarm. Anderson then shot it on the chest, killing it instantly.

See also

References

  • “The Black Bear of Mysore”, from Man-Eaters and Jungle Killers, Kenneth Anderson, Allen & Unwin, 1957

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