The Bungonia Bear


Tim the Yowie Man


Tim the Yowie Man

Naturalist, author, broadcaster and tour guide Tim the Yowie Man has dedicated the past 25 years to documenting Australia’s unusual natural phenomena. He’s the author of several books, including Haunted and Mysterious Australia (New Holland, 2018). Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @TimYowie
By Tim the Yowie Man 27 September 2022
Reading Time: 2 Minutes Print this page
It’s rugged out Bungonia way, near Goulburn in south-eastern New South Wales. The tiny town is surrounded by forest and steep gorges and pockmarked with some of the mainland’s deepest cave systems. If a large new mammal species was ever to be discovered in a hidden valley, then it’s more likely to be in the wilds of Bungonia than in many other places in the county.

So when Bungonia made national headlines in 1964 after an unusual creature with “black fur and big, long teeth” was sighted, it came as a surprise to few. But many were shocked at the animal’s appearance, which resembled a bear. Of course, you don’t need me to tell you bears, whether grizzly, black or polar, are as likely to be roaming the Aussie bush as emus are to be wallowing in a New York sewer.

The creature’s unlikely moniker appears to have come from a 27 August 1964 newspaper report in which local hunter Peter White claimed to have seen an unknown beast that “turned around and stood on its legs”. With that, the legend of the Bungonia Bear was born. 

Peter wasn’t the only Bungonian to spot the ‘bear’. During the next three months the curious creature was seen by another nine locals, including a Mr Cooper, who said it was “crouching down and looked about four feet high”. 

Bear reports aren’t restricted to Bungonia. Gayndah, a farming town a 350km drive north of Brisbane, Queensland has its own legend. In 2000 mango farmer Shirley Humphreys was one of several residents to see a creature on the banks of the Burnett River. “It looked like a man but was the shape of a bear,” she told your wide-eyed columnist, who raced to the scene with a can of bear repellent to investigate. 

So where exactly did Gayndah’s bear come from? It apparently escaped when a circus truck crashed on the nearby Binjour Range in the 1950s. Yeah, right. The good old circus crash theory is often rolled out by true believers to explain the existence of other out-of-place creatures in the Australian bush, especially pumas or panthers. In this case, there was no concrete proof of a bear escaping any crash. Even if it did, how would it have survived for 50 years in Gayndah, especially when a grizzly’s life expectancy is 30 years, tops? The mind boggles.

Needless to say, I returned home with a full can of bear spray. No physical evidence of Gayndah’s grizzly was ever found. Perhaps it was a prankster in a bear suit. 

As to the plight of the Bungonia Bear? That mystery was solved in October 1964 when, the night after his neighbour “lost nearly 20 lambs and three sheep”, farmer Reece Taylor shot the bear, which he described as “a cross between an Alsatian and a dingo”. 

The Bungonia Bear saga makes you wonder how many other monsters and denizens of the Australian bush are merely cases of mistaken identity, whether they be wild dogs, feral cats or other known species.

Related: The tale of the Nullarbor Nymph