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Andean.SpectacledBear Joaquin 0665

Andean Bear

Andean Bear

Tremarctos ornatus

The most herbivorous of all bear species, the Andean bear (or the spectacled bear) feeds primarily on fruit, grasses, berries, and sugar cane, with a very small amount of live prey. Only about 4% of its diet is animal matter. Every Andean bear has its own distinctive set or “fingerprint” of distinct cream or whitish markings on its head, throat and chest. They are excellent climbers and can reach heights of up to 80 feet into the canopy. They are known for building tree nests for sleeping and feeding. Andean bears are not a hibernating species, probably due to the abundance of food found year-round. The Andean bear is the only surviving member of the short-faced bear subfamily, which thrived until about 10,000 years ago.

Andean bears are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Andean bear populations are likely to decline enough by 2030 to classify the species as Endangered due to continued habitat loss and degradation, human conflicts, and poaching. They are losing habitat at a rate of 2-4% per year and the level of exploitation is high in many portions of the range. Even within protected areas bears are still at risk due to inadequate patrolling.

Andean bears have a variable mating season, but April to June is most likely. Litter sizes range from 1-2 cubs (3 is rare). Gestation is 8-8.5 months. Cubs are completely dependent on the mother; they are born practically bald, toothless, and blind. At 3 months old, cubs first start to venture out of the safety of their den. Cubs stay with their mother for about 1 year after birth.

What are they like?

Physical Description: Andean bears have short, dark fur ranging in color from black to brown (sometimes with a reddish tinge). They are marked with distinctive circular or semi-circular creamy white or yellowish markings (resembling spectacles) on the face and around the eyes, as well as down to their throat and chest. They have a relatively small head, a short snout, and long legs.

Life Span: In the wild, Andean bears typically live up to 25 years. In zoos, they live 20-25 years with the record being 39 years.

Diet: Andean bears are omnivores, but the most herbivorous of all bear species. The majority of the wild bear diet consists of bromeliads (such as cactus) but also includes fruits, berries, shrubs, honey, sugar cane and a very small amount of live prey such as insects and small mammals. At the Zoo, our Andean bears eat bear chow, sweet potatoes, apples, raisins, honey, peanut butter, and mealworms.

Social Structure: Little information is available for Andean bear social structure. They are mostly nocturnal and sometimes crepuscular and are very shy. They travel alone outside of breeding season. They are also rarely seen in numbers except for a mother and young, so they are presumed to be solitary. However, at sites with abundant food, many bears may be found feeding in close proximity to one another.

Habitat: Andean bears live in or near forested areas, typically between 6,000-8,000 feet above sea level (although some inhabit lower elevation levels). Habitat varies from rainforest, cloud forest, and mossy, stunted elfin forest to thorny dry forest. They will also forage in grassland habitats adjacent to forest.

Where do they live?

Andean bears are found in the Andes Mountains, mainly in or near forested mountains from Venezuela to Columbia. They are also found south through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Location

Andean spectacled bear range South America

Did you know?

  • Bears play an essential role in keeping the ecosystem healthy and balanced as a keystone species. The Andean bear is an important seed disperser, passing on seeds of laurels (valued hardwoods) and other plants through its droppings.
  • If food is scarce, an Andean bear mother has the ability to absorb an embryo into her body. Delayed implantation can also occur, which can delay birth until environmental conditions are more favorable.
  • Their favorite food is bromeliad, a family of plants that includes the pineapple. They will tear off leaves to eat, and then rip the plant off its substrate to get to the meaty center. When looking for food, they may assemble a small platform from branches to give them support while they reach for fruit.