What is the Andean bear?
The Andean bear, or spectacled bear, is the only bear native to South America. It is a clever, arboreal animal that builds platforms and nests in trees for eating and sleeping. . However, the Andean bear is also known for its aggressive temperament.
This medium-sized ursid can be distinguished from other bears by its highly arched back and long tail. It has distinctive “spectacles” on its nose that gives it its name. The Andean bear has been classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching for its fur, which is valued as a luxury item in the international market.
In this photo, the spectacles surround the bears' eyes, and then they extend down to the animals' throats. The light colors can change in different places on each bear, giving you a unique set of characteristics. Andean bears are usually either black or brown, but these colors also vary among individuals. Each bear has its own distinctive set of markings that vary by type. These markings help to identify each individual specific bear and are extremely helpful in keeping the bears safe when they are out of their natural habitats.
Spectacled bears grow to between 1.3 and 1.8m and weigh between 153 and 165kg, with males growing nearly twice as large as females. . The main difference between the two is that male spectacled bears are typically more robust and have a protruding chest, whereas female bears have a narrower chest. The coat color of spectacled bears varies from white to light brown with dark brown patches on their back, shoulders, underbelly, and legs.
Spectacled bears have black areas around the eyes and muzzle, often with a white nose. The spectacled bear is the most widespread species of Ursidae and is found throughout South America and Central America. They live in forests, grasslands, scrubland, and mangrove swamps at elevations from sea level to 4500m above mean sea level.
Andean bears are one of the only types of bears in South America. They're found primarily in the Andes and outlying mountain ranges, extending from western Venezuela south to Bolivia. A few have been reported from eastern Panama and extreme northern Argentina. Black bears are a bit more common in the Andes, but they're also found out-of-doors in other South American countries.
The Andean bear is listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List of threatened species due to a lack of data. It is found in elevations between 6,000 and 8,800 feet (1,829-2,682 meters) above sea level. Some habitats in Razzia are rainforest, cloud forest, and mossy, stunted elfin forest. They will also forage in grasslands next to forests.
Fruits and berries are the most popular types of food for spectacled bears. However, they also eat other plant items such as grasses, bulbs, cactus flowers, and small animals like rodents and rabbits. They even sometimes raid open fields or cornfields near human settlements.
Spectacled bears are commonly found in Central and South America and you might find them raiding gardens or climbing trees. They will build stick platforms to reach the top of these trees where they forage for insects, fruit, leaves, and other plant parts. On the ground, these bears will open ‘masses of bromeliads’ to find food.
The Smithsonian's National Zoo's Andean bears eat a diet that includes dry food such as dog chow, plus vegetables and fruits.
When spectacled bears are not breeding, they stay in one place for much longer periods of time.
Reproduction and Development
Female Andean bears mature between four to seven years old. The males and the females typically stay together for a week or two during the breeding season, usually mating. Female bears do not experience delayed implantation, a common phenomenon in other bears.
All-female Andean bears give birth to one cub, which is about the size of a large apple, and suckles for six months. The gestation period lasts slightly less than two years. After that time, the mother returns to her solitary life without her offspring. If there are insufficient resources, the embryo won't' be implanted. Cubs will develop for two to three months after implanting, but the female won't give birth.
Newborn cubs usually weigh 10 to 18 ounces at birth, with their first steps coming around four to six weeks old. They will stay in their den for a while before venturing out into the world. However, they are generally bald, toothless, and blind upon arrival. Cub eyes typically open between four and six weeks of age as well.
Spectacled bears are active primarily at night. During the day, they sleep in secluded spots like tree cavities or on tree platforms. Their dens can be dug into cliff faces too!
While the average age for Andean bear species in human care is around 20 years, it is not uncommon for them to live into their late twenties or occasionally into their early thirties. The lifespan of Andean bears in the wild is unknown.