Creatures from Heart of Fire Time of Ice

Kathleen cameo ready



I had a good time working with the prehistoric animals mentioned in my story Heart of Fire Time of Ice. Who isn’t intrigued with creatures such as saber-tooth tigers? (Well, maybe not everyone.)

I couldn’t weave every possible animal into the story, but I used a number of the larger and more prominent ones that I thought my readers would be likely to know.

I made an effort to have the animals behave in ways that are consistent with what we know about them based on similar modern species. My description of their behavior is based on my imagination only and not to be taken as factual.

The saber-tooth tigers’ habits are still a matter of great speculation. No one has been able to satisfactorily explain how they used their enormous canines. The lengthy teeth seem to have been too fragile for the type of hunting techniques used by most of today’s big cats.

I made the assumption that the saber-toothed cats were more like lions and hunted primarily in groups. This would seem to be a necessity, considering the large size of many of the prey animals of the period.

One idea that I took into consideration was that the large numbers of herbivores would inevitably lead to numerous predators. It seems to me that humans of the period would be exposed to a lot of random predation. The large predators most likely wouldn’t actively seek out humans, but they most assuredly wouldn’t turn down a tasty snack, if they happened upon one.

In the next section, you’ll find a partially annotated list of Pleistocene animals. I’ve made some notes on animals that are not commonly known. Not all of them found their way into the plot. In addition, the list is not exhaustive, nor is it in the order in which the animals appear in the story.


This section contains a partial list of animals that early North American humans might have encountered. It is not intended to be complete.

  • Birds – Grouse and other upland game birds, along with most of the ancestors of today’s birds, including many species of ducks and geese. Birds of prey, such as eagles, would have been more common.

  • Bison – Two species existed in America

  • Black Bear – The common black bear would be larger due to the necessity of surviving in the colder climate

  • Giant short-faced bear – six-feet at the shoulder when standing on all fours. This bear would have been the most dangerous, single predator. It would have been very difficult to kill using Paleolithic weapons. It would have been possibly one-third to one-half larger than modern polar bears.

    chapter 19 illustration

    Giant Short-Faced Bear (artist’s conception)

  • Giant Beaver

  • Grizzly Bear – as dangerous to humans then as it is today

  • Lesser short-faced bear – Closer to grizzly size. Bears were a valuable source of meat and fat for early settlers. Early accounts reveal that they were an important food for American Indians. They frequently diced up venison (which is very lean) and fried it in bear fat. One would expect the Clovis people to have done the same.

  • Bobcat

  • Western Camel – the Western Camel was a migrating herd animal

  • Cave Lion – Pantera Atrox – The American Cave Lion was 40% larger than modern African Lions

  • Cheetah – The American Cheetah was unrelated to today’s African Cheetah. It was larger than modern cheetahs.

  • Giant Condor

  • Coyote – possibly a little larger than modern coyotes

  • Deer of various species

  • Dire wolf – more closely related to coyotes than gray wolves. Larger and heavier than gray wolves.

    chapter 15 illustration direwolf

    Dire Wolf

  • Fish – many species, including the Saber-tooth Salmon which was nine-feet long

  • Fox

  • Glyptotherium – A giant armadillo-like creature; probably a swamp dweller and unlikely to occur near the glaciers

  • Homotherium – unique hyena-like scimitar-toothed cats that were probably pack hunters, smaller than Smilodon

    chapter 10 illustration homotherium

    Homotherium (artist’s conception)

  • Horse – became extinct in America, only to be re-introduced by the Spanish

  • Jaguar – Larger than modern Jaguars

  • Llama – at least two species, herd animals

  • Lynx –This small, solitary hunter was also larger than modern versions.

  • Mammoth – various species of which the Columbian Mammoth is the one referred to in the story. It could weigh upwards of 20,000 pounds.

  • Mastodon – smaller than the mammoths. They most likely either lived a solitary life or lived in small groups

  • Muskox

  • Puma/Mountain lion – probably larger than the modern animal

  • Rabbit and other rodents

  • Skunk and other mustelids such as weasels, etc. Wolverines would have been an occasional danger to humans. They’ve been known to kill both wolves and bears.

  • Smilodon Fatalis – nearly African lion sized, bulky, ambush predators with six-inch fangs

    saber tooth cameo

    Smilodon Fatalis (artist’s conception)

  • Giant ground sloth – ten feet tall or more with huge claws – probably found singly or with cubs, but not in groups

  • Peccary – small pigs, found today in the American Southwest

  • Pronghorn – 14 species existed; only one exists today

  • Saiga – antelope

  • Tapir – most likely swamp-dwelling and unlikely to be far north

  • Wolf – Gray wolves might have been about the size of today’s Gray wolf. While there are other species of wolf in America, the story restricts itself to the Gray Timber Wolf.

    chapter 5 illustration wolf puppy

    Sleeping Gray Wolf Puppy

Today, in contrast to the Pleistocene period, the largest North American land animal is the American Bison. The largest predator is the Polar Bear, followed by the Kodiak Bear. A Giant Short-faced bear (illustration above) would probably be almost one-quarter larger than a polar bear.

To a human, either would be a fearsome predator, although not invulnerable. The Inuit used primitive weapons to kill polar bears and the Clovis culture probably would have done the same.

What do you think?

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