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Spectacled Bear

Appearance

The spectacled bears is also known as the Andean bear, its name comes from the markings that it has around its eyes. The spectacled bear has circles of cream coloured fur around its eyes which make them look as though they are wearing glasses. This cream coloured fur can also sometimes extend down their throat and chest. The rest of the fur is black or dark brown.

Each bear has their own unique spectacled pattern. They have very long claws which they use for climbing trees.

The length of the spectacled bear is 1.2 to 1.8 metres (5.5 to 6.5 ft) with the height at their shoulder 70 to 80 cms (27 to 31 in). The average weight of the male spectacled bear is 100 to 155 kgs (220 to 340 pounds) with the female weighing 64 to 82 kgs (140 to 180 pounds). The males are 30 to 50 percent larger than the females.

Diet

Spectacled bears are omnivores which means that they eat both plants and animals.

They are mainly plant eaters with fruit, bromeliads and palms among their most commonly eaten foods. Only about 5% of their diet is meat, usually insects, rodents and rabbits. Some of the other foods that they eat are berries, grasses, honey and bark.

The spectacled bear plays an important role in the ecology of the rain forest because they eat so much fruit. The seeds that they eat are excreted in their droppings as they go through the rain forest, this disperses the seeds over long distances.

Spectacled Bear

Scientific Name

Tremarctos ornatus

Conservation Status

Vulnerable

Height

70-80cm (27-31in)

Weight

Male

100-155kg (220-340lb)

Female

64-82kg (140-180lbs)

Length

1.2-1.8m (5.5-6.5ft)

Lifespan

Wild 25 years

Captive 38 years

Diet

Omnivorous

Range

Spectacled bears are found in Andean countries of northern and western South America, including Colombia, Peru, northwestern Argentina, eastern Panama and western Venezuela.

Habitat

Their favoured habitat is humid and dry forests and high altitude grasslands.

Spectacled bears are the only surviving species of bear native to South America. Their survival has depended mostly on the fact that they are able to climb even the tallest trees in the Andes.

Their habitat is being destroyed by a number of things such as farming, lumber and mining operations. They also sometimes are hunted by farmers because as their habitat shrinks they may stray onto farmland and eat the crops that have replaced their natural diet. Also some farmers think that the bears will eat their livestock although they do not eat large quantities of meat. They are hunted for their gall bladders which can fetch a high price in the international market as they are valued in traditional Chinese medicine.

Reproduction

Spectacled bears can mate all year round but breeding usually takes place between April and June.

They have a gestation period of 6-7 months although true gestation may be as little as 65 days because spectacled bears can delay implantation. They plan the birth so that the cub will be emerging at the peak fruit season so they will have adequate amounts to eat. If food is really scarce for a season the female can absorb the eggs back into her body and will not give birth at that time.

The female constructs a den for the cubs to be born into and she will typically give birth to 1 to 3 cubs but usually 2 in zoos.

When the cub is born it will weigh about 284 to 510 grams (10 to 18 ounces) and the cubs eyes will be closed. The eyes will generally open at about 42 days old, and the cubs will usually leave the dens safety at around three months old.

The cub will stay with their mother for about two years when they will be chased away by a male wanting to mate with the female.

Spectacled bear

Behaviour

The spectacled bear is a solitary species only coming together for mating or on a rare occasion they may share a large amount of food with other bears.

They are an extremely vocal species, second only to pandas among bears for the number they make. These include a shriek and a purr.

These bears are expert climbers and spend plenty of time in the trees. They sometimes create a platform of branches in a tree where they can eat and sleep.

There are no recorded predators of an adult spectacled bear. Cubs can be taken by pumas, and jaguars. They may also been cannibalised by male bears who are not involved in raising the young.

Quick Facts

The spectacled bear is also known as the Andean bear.

They are the second largest animal in South America after the tapir.

Photo Credits

Used under license.

References

Velez-Liendo, X. & García-Rangel, S. 2017. Tremarctos ornatus (errata version published in 2018). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22066A123792952. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T22066A45034047.en. Downloaded on 23 May 2020.

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