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BEAR PARK AT LOCH LOMOND, properly called The Cameron Loch Lomond Wildlife and Leisure Park or simply the Loch Lomond Bear Park. Old Luss Road, outside Balloch.

This no longer exists. 

Just outside the Cameron House grounds was once a zoo which specialised in bears!

It had been created in 1972 by Jimmy Chipperfield, whose family were also known for their circus and the introduction of animal parks to stately home estates elsewhere. At one point it had up to 32 bears including 16 Himalayan black bears, 12 European brown bears, three grizzly bear and a Canadian brown bear, all of which roamed freely in a large enclosure. Visitors could drive amongst them - not always with their cars unscathed,

There were also friendlier animals which were popular with children . 

Although may locals still retain fond memories of the park it was not a huge success and with some management problems led to financial instability. The three owners, Chipperfield, Patrick Telfer-Smollett ( who owned the land ) and Muir ( of Blair Drummond ), went bankrupt, not that long after opening. 

It was re-opened in 1975, under the control of the Telfer-Smollett family and struggled on until the 1980s. 

If you stroll along Luss Road or the route to Cameron House from Lomond Shores and you perhaps see a squirrel or a mallard, consider the impressive wildlife that held court here not all that long ago. 

You may recognise this smiley bear from the Kelvingrove Museum. Questionable taxidermy. But it does make one question whether such bears once roamed Scotland.

This picture comes from a Daily Record article with the re-opening of the park, having been saved by Mr Telfer Smollett. It reinforces the image of bears as being not ferocious, but cuddly and friendly. But then the gun indicates cautious reality.

Evidence of bears roaming around West Dunbartonshire is rather thin, if at all, but from evidence elsewhere in Scotland, we can be sure that they did. Such evidence comes from archaeological, or rather speleological remains and also placenames. For more on this see the ScotlandsNature blog link below. These appear to have been brown bears. A skull of a polar bear has been found, but it probably floated into a sea cave on the tide.

While such evidence places their extinction here as way back in the mists of time, one wonders if any of our early ancestors confronted them. No records, including those on engraved stones indicate this. The most ferocious animal noted in this way was the wild boar. But this has not stopped the consideration by some of their reintroduction into Scotland - just as beavers and wolves have. The big difference with the latter is that they became extinct in the wild in much more recent times. Most animals carved onto rocks in Pictish times are recognisable such as boar and stags, but sometimes there are fanciful ones such as entwined monsters that we may think of as dragons, shapes and creatures rising out of the twirls of campfire smoke. And then there are some that are unrecognisable. Did these ancient peoples have folk memories, traditions, that over time were built on and elaborated from even earlier experiences with bears? 

This is not that far-fetched. There are still wild Eurasion brown bears in Europe and even occasional polar bears in the extreme north. With the land bridge that once existed across the North Sea, such beasts would have been wandering around most of the continent - just as our ancestors did.

DAILY RECORD : https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/remember-grizzly-bears-lived-loch-8471602

FACEBOOK : https://www.facebook.com/Bearpark82/

GEOGRAPH.ORG : https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3013783

SCOTLAND'S NATURE blog (http://www.nature.scot) : https://scotlandsnature.blog/2021/02/19/bearing-down-on-ursid-toponyms/

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