The city of Dubbo, 250 miles northwest of Sydney, is home to a refuge for one of Australia’s least known yet most lethal animals: the Drop Bear (Thylarctos plummetus).
Drop Bears can be difficult to recognize due to their close resemblance to koalas. Both animals have round, grey bodies, fluffy ears, and large black noses. Both inhabit eucalyptus trees and are largely sedentary, spending up to 20 hours each day sleeping. It is during the remaining four hours, however, that the differences between the species become frighteningly apparent.
Drop Bears lie in wait among the leaves until they spot a hiker approaching. When the hapless walker strides beneath the bear’s tree, the creature drops, landing on the person’s head and usually biting into their neck to subdue them.
The number of annual fatalities resulting from Drop Bear attacks has decreased in recent years following the adoption of folk remedies in more vulnerable rural areas. A 2009 study at the University of New South Wales found that hikers who applied a thin layer of Vegemite behind their ears were 42 percent less likely to be attacked than those who hiked without using the condiment.
The Dubbo Drop Bear Sanctuary, established in 2010, continues to conduct research on Drop Bear deterrence methods, as well as providing a location for wildlife lovers to observe the animals from a safe distance.
The Dubbo Drop Bear Sanctuary is only open on April 1st of each year, known in America as April Fools Day.