Spectacled bears

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Spectacled Bears

The Spectacled Bears are the second largest land mammals in South America. They are a medium size by bear standards and only the Tapir is larger. It has been given the name 'bear with eyeglasses' in Spanish, which it has obtained because of light coloured markings surrounding the eyes.

The Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is the sole survivor of a subfamily of bears that once ranged across North and South America during the last Ice Age.

Today it is found only in the Andes from Venezuela to Chile. Some reports have also suggested its presence in eastern Panama and northern Argentina.

Spectacled Bears can occupy a wide variety of habitats, but are most commonly present in heavy forests, perhaps because of displacement and persecution by humans.

Not much is known about the bearsí behaviour in the wild and therefore their status and distribution is uncertain in many areas.

It does not hibernate and it is an animal with a diet that is almost exclusively vegetarian, similar to the giant panda. Its favourite food is fruit but the Spectacled Bear also eats bromeliads, stripping off the tough outer leaves to get at the soft base and hearts.

Spectacled Bears are considered rather shy animals. The rings of yellowish fur around its eyes account for the spectacled bearís name. These golden markings vary greatly from one bear to another and sometimes extend from the cheeks to the chest. Their predators include mountain lions and jaguars.

Attacks on humans are very rare, the causes usually being due to a close proximity to a female with young animals, but because the bears sometimes raid crops and attack livestock, some local people consider them a pest and will often shoot them on sight. Another practice that may impact Spectacled Bears is the increase in cultivation of coca for cocaine.

Details of reproductive behaviour in the wild are sparse. Mating takes place from April to June and litters are born between November and February. In captive animals pregnancy has been found to last for up to 9 months and seems to involve a period of delayed implantation. Between 1 and 3 cubs are born, each weighing 300 - 360g.

Captive animals usually live to 20 or 25 years of age although a single animal at Buenos Aires Zoo reached an age of 36 years.
The males can weigh up to 155 kg, the females up to 80 kg. It is a superb climber and a night and twilight animal. Today there are approximately 2,000 individuals and this species is listed by the IUCN as endangered (vulnerable).

The Spectacled Bear Fact
  • Name: The Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus)
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Subclass: Theria
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Ursidae
  • Length of life: About 20 - 25 years in zoos. In the wild unknown
  • Size: 150 to 180 cm
  • Weight: 100 to 155 kg males
    64 to 82 kg females
  • Habitat: Rainforest, cloud forest, dry forest, steppes and coastal scrub desert
  • Diet: Birds, rabbits, mice, fruit, grasses, berries, bromeliads
  • Gestation: 6 to 9 months
  • Cubs: 1 to 3 cubs
  • SubFamily: Ursinae
  • Genus: Tremarctos
  • Predators: Mountain lions and jaguars
  • Distribution: South America: Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Columbia
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