by Eric Ginsburg

Wojtek the smiling warrior. (public domain)

The Greensboro bear

A bear was shot by PTI, and many of us are still wondering why tranquilizers weren’t used. Somehow a black bear wandered through downtown Asheville unmolested almost exactly a year prior. The question remains: Is the Greensboro Bear dead?

“I’m with the band”

Many bands find themselves attracted to the same few animal names like Wolf Parade, Bear Vs. Shark and Grizzly Bear. Then there’s Panda Bear, a founding member of Animal Collective. Of course, I can’t forget to mention the Greensboro-based band Tiger Bear Wolf.

Grizzly Man

Timmy Treadwell wanted to be a grizzly bear, and while he said they saved his life, they also took it. Treadwell trekked through the Alaskan wilderness for years before being eaten by one of the bears. I find it impossible to take this movie (or Treadwell) seriously, but for the purpose of the list I’m grouping the Grizzly Man with the real grizzlies.

Bear Force One

Urban Dictionary defines bear as “a term used by gay men to describe a husky, large man with a lot of body hair.” I can’t speak to the accuracy of the body hair aspect, but a quick YouTube search for Bearforce1 confirms the rest.

Berenstain Bears

This nuclear family with highly practical names were recurring characters in my childhood. I remember sitting with my elementary school class as a librarian read to us from one of the books, but I was sheltered from the more Christian-themed titles. More concerning is the odd shape of their mouths.

Andy Bear

Nobody can really explain why our friend Ethan started calling our friend Andy “Bear,” but the nickname stuck. It only seems appropriate — he reminds us of a teddy bear and his favorite team is the California Golden Bears (of UC Berkeley).

Wojtek the smiling warrior

Soldiers of the Polish Army adopted a Syrian brown bear cub in 1942 that was less than a year old and named it Wojtek, or “smiling warrior.” Wojtek became an unofficial mascot for Polish soldiers stationed in Iran and was later sworn into the Polish Army and brought with them. The bear could salute and wrestle, and loved beer and eating or smoking cigarettes. In other words, he fit right in.

Smokey the Bear

The Ad Council claims that 95 percent of adults and 77 percent of children recognize Smokey Bear, an impressive feat when Newsweek asserts that 29 percent of people couldn’t name the vice president. Smokey is more lovable and he’s been in the public eye for longer, but the Forest Service should be proud nonetheless.

Gummi bears

We eat up images of huggable cartoon bears, so it’s only natural that edible bears would find such widespread appeal. These small, confectionary animals usually come in five different flavors, and now there are all-natural and vegetarian versions (some strict vegetarians refuse to eat gelatin).

Everyone else

Our society is so obsessed with bears it would be impossible to narrow the list down to 10. “How dare he leave out Winnie the Pooh!” you must be thinking. Or ,”What about Fozzie Bear?” There’s Ling Ling from Anchorman, the stuffed bear at the Natural Science Center, the one Borat drove around in an ice cream truck, Fuzzy Wuzzy, the icon on Klondike Bars, Baloo from the Jungle Book, and the Chicago Bears.