I really believe the Predator franchise doesn’t get the credit it deserves when it comes to the deeper themes and subtext, it does just sometimes come down to wanting to the see 7 foot tall extra-terrestrial hunters go toe-to-toe with the best of what planet Earth has to offer. Sometimes that’s an elite squad of mercenaries, sometimes it’s being stuck between rival drug gangs and sometimes its Comanche warriors.
Sometimes though, it’s the animals that also call the planet Earth home. Over the course of the last 2 decades we’ve seen the Predators go up against some of the Earth’s most apex predators in the expanded universe, but it wasn’t until Prey that we saw a Predator throw down on the screen with Earth’s deadly native fauna, most notably a bear. In this episode of the OWLF Files, we’re going to be taking a look at all the times that a Predator has set its tri-laser sights on bears.
While we had seen a Predator go up against boars and mountain lions in Dark Horse’s second ever Predator comic series Predator: Big Game, it wasn’t until the release of Predator: Primal between July and August of 1997 that we finally saw a Predator test its mettle against a bear.
Written by Kevin J. Anderson – who would also go on to later write the short Indigenous Species for the anthology book Predator: If It Bleeds – and with artwork by Scott Kolins, John Lowe, Jimmy Johns, David Nestelle and Dave Stewart, Predator: Primal is a two issue series that sees a Predator land in the Alaskan wilderness looking for a good time.
It’s the hottest summer on record at Denali National Park in Alaska where we find Ranger Anna Barr and Ranger Glen on the lookout for forest fires, while Ranger Barr is also tracking the progress of two young bear cubs. Unknown to the pair, the extreme temperatures and the wild-life of “the most rugged wilderness in North America” had attracted the attention of a Predator.
Having already taken the skull of a stag as a trophy, the Predator had gone in the search of other prey and comes across the pair of bear cubs that Anna was tracking. The Predator quickly dispatched one of the young bears with a shot from his Plasma Caster, before the second retreated. Seemingly unsatisfied with the kill, the Predator moved on.
The death of the bear is noticed by Ranger Anna Barr who proceeds to head to the site of the dead cub to investigate. Anna was also a bear researcher and due to the diminishing population of Grizzy Bears, she was determined to learn more about the cause of the cub’s sudden death.
As the ranger headed off into the National Park, the Predator soon came face-to-face with the mother of the grizzly cub that the extra-terrestrial hunter had killed. Sensing the Predator’s presence, the mother bear charged through the nearby wilderness to confront the otherworldly lifeform.
The Predator was quick to attempt to defend itself with the Plasma Caster but a swipe from the bear redirected the cannon, and the weapon was then irreparably damaged by a bite from the mother bear. Unnoticed by either combatant, the errant plasma blast had started a fire.
This fire was soon noticed by Anna who was searching for a landing area for her helicopter. She soon noticed evidence of the Predators camouflaged landing craft, and the spreading wildfire which she called in to Ranger Glenn as unknown to her the bear knocked the Predator off a small precipice into a river below.
Ranger Anna Barr soon came across the remains of the dead bear cub and a discarded spear, and was quick to note the unusual wounds caused by the Predator’s plasma caster. Following a trail of blood left by the wounded Predator, she followed the hunter back to its craft, where she was knocked out by the injured Predator.
Uninterested in the unconscious ranger, the Predator discarded its damaged equipment and armour. After injecting itself with something – presumably stimulants or pain relief – the Predator destroyed both Anna’s portable radio and her landed helicopter before heading back out into the wilderness, oblivious to the raging wildfire or the attempts of the forest rangers to fight it.
The Predator soon tracked down the mother bear and engaged her again. A thrown spear wounded the bear, slicing the right-side of her face, but didn’t stop the two from engaging in close quarters. The Predator attempted to hit the bear with a burning branch, and the bear retaliated by knocking the Predators mask off before eventually managing to grapple the Predator.
The fight soon turns to the bear’s favour. She bit the Predator and threw him into a nearby boulder, seemingly killing the Predator. The mother and her remaining cub retreat into the forest, leaving the Predator’s body behind.
Despite appearances though, the Predator was not killed. It was, however, grievously wounded and returned to its vessel where it activated the self-destruct. Meanwhile Ranger Anna Barr had been able to signal to Ranger Glen and was rescued in time to escape the detonation of the Predator’s ship.
Despite returning to investigate the site of the explosion, Anna was unable to find any evidence of the Predator’s vessel and left none-the-wiser about the grudge-match that had taken place between the defeated Predator and the victorious mother bear.
The next time we would see a Predator share a comic panel with a bear was in mildly controversial Predator: Homeworld and it was nowhere near as prominent a part of the story as in Primal. Released between March and June of 1999, Predator: Homeworld was a four issue series written by husband-and-wife Jim Vance and Kate Worley with artwork by Toby Cypress, Mark Lipka and Dave Stewart. Neither Jim Vance or Kate Worley would return to write for Predator again, but Vance did also write Aliens: Survival and the comic adaptation of Alien: Resurrection.
Predator: Homeworld sees an older Predator tracking a trio of younger Bad Bloods to Earth, where the code breaking Predators are running rampant around the Montana portion of the Yellowstone Park. This Predator wasn’t the only one on the tracks of the Bad Bloods; so was George Sperling, a freelance photographer.
While tracking the trail of carnage left behind by the Predators, he came across the mutilated carcass of a large black bear that the Bad Bloods had recently killed.
“A black bear, a big one. And it had been killed so recently I could still see…Well, maybe I imagine I could see…the body heat rising as steam in the air.”
It wasn’t until the closing pages of the series where Predator: Homeworld’s other survivor Doctor Maya Bergstrom was speculating about what happened to the elder Predator do we see a panel of the Predator about to challenge a bear, but we cut away before we see any fight.
Titan Books’ recently released Predator anthology, Predator: Eyes of the Demon, has a short story that follows a similar circumstance. In Aftermath, written by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, we find Dutch soon after the events of the first Predator, who escapes the custody of the OWLF to investigate a possible Predator sighting.
The evidence of the Predator’s presence included “skinned corpses of animals—wolves, a stag, bears. Laser scorching of foliage and trees similar to those we found in Val Verde.” But much like Predator: Homeworld, we don’t see any actual conflict between a Predator and a bear.
Steve Perry, the father of the Yautja culture himself, would give us this in the fantastic 2008 novel Predator: Turnabout. One of a small handful of original Predator novels published by DH Press in the late 2000s, Predator: Turnabout sees us return to the Alaskan wilderness where this time Ranger Sloane is the one to be confronted by the Predators.
As an ex-military sniper Sloane has a much better go of his conflict with the Predators than Ranger Barr in Predator: Primal. Early in the story Sloane comes across the remains of an Alaskan bear – with a noticeable lack of a skull.
Sloane soon comes across the corpses of 2 armed men whom he surmised were poachers – also missing their skulls, but this time with peculiar burn wounds. While he originally thought the bear was also the work of poachers, Sloane quickly realized that a third party was involved. A third party with advanced weaponry and a fondness for removing the skulls of their kills.
It didn’t take long for the ranger to discover his true culprits when his attention was drawn by the sounds of a bear call “steeped in rage.” There Sloane witnessed the Predators going toe-to-toe with another brown bear.
“The male brown bear stood more than three meters tall when it reared on its hind legs, probably ran thirteen hundred pounds. Not a record size, maybe, but big and mean enough.
This…creature danced around it, incredibly fast, flashing at it with long double wrist-blades mounted on its right arm.”
A second Predator soon decloaked and joined the fray. Together the two Predators worked to box the bear in, working as a hunting duo to wear the bear down in a more strategized way than we tend to see from the Predators.
“The two things worked as a team, and they were very efficient. Fast as the bear was, they were faster.
When the bear would focus on one, the other would dart in, cut or stick it, and back out before the bear could turn. It was deadly and impressive.”
The bear was able to land some hits on the hunting party, but the effectiveness of the Predator’s armor and their natural resilience allowed them to continue to get back up on their feet and keep at it with the terrestrial prey.
“It took a few minutes, but eventually the bear bled out enough from its wounds so that it grew weak. It tried to run, but the things blocked it, kept attacking.
Once it was down and unable to fight any more, they zapped it with some kind of laser to put it out of its misery.”
This was the last of bear-on-Predator conflict we would see with Predator: Turnabout, with its action instead turning towards the ex-sniper and another poacher named Regal as they tried to survive the situation that they found themselves in.
It wasn’t until Prey’s release in August of 2022 that we saw the Predators go up against a bear again, and in a theatrical setting none-the-less! Throughout Prey’s runtime we see the Feral Predator slowly work its way up Earth’s food chain, taking on a snake and a wolf before we see it tackle a bear in close-quarter combat.
Naru, Prey’s protagonist, is attempting to track the Feral Predator, convinced of its unnatural presence. In her attempts to the find the extra-terrestrial hunter, Naru stumbles upon a bear along a riverside.
A downwind blow from Naru’s position alerted the bear to her presence and as it investigated the surroundings, she drew an arrow in preparation when her bowstring snapped due to being submerged earlier, fully alerting the bear to her position.
Completely aware of Naru’s presence now, the bear charged. Sari, Naru’s dog, was able to draw the bear off while Naru repaired her bowstring and came to Sari’s aid. However, Naru’s arrow only further enraged the bear who chased the Comanche warrior into the river. Naru was able to take refuge in a beaver den, halting the bear’s assault somewhat.
It was then that the Feral Predator arrived. Sensing the Predator’s presence the bear abandoned its attack on Naru, and turned to face the cloaked form of the Feral Predator in the middle of the river. The two began to fight.
The bear was able to bite down on Feral’s wrist, but the Predator soon countered, throwing the bear onto its back. The two creatures continued to fight, with the bear apparently getting the upper hand and landing on top of the alien hunter where it threw the Predator around, drawing plenty of luminescent green blood.
Thinking itself victorious the bear began to retreat, only for the Feral Predator to stand back up. The bear turned to charge, and with a vicious right-hook the Feral Predator killed the bear. In triumph the Predator lifted the dead bear above it, the bear’s blood raining down on the still cloaked figure of the Feral, highlighting its features to the shocked Naru who had observed the fight.
And those are all the recorded instances of a Predator seeking a trophy of a terrestrial bear. Are there any other creatures you’d like to see a Predator take on? Sound off in the comments section below.