EXPLORETY

The shy spectacled bears: tree-climbing champions of the bear species

Andean or spectacled bear

When it comes to bears, most of us think of lovely white polar bears that slide down the Arctic slopes, cute and clumsy pandas, or even fierce grizzlies that roam the forests of North America. But what about the spectacled bear? Also known as the Andean bear, this South American native is probably one of the lesser-known bears.

Spectacled bears have distinctive ginger-colored markings across their faces and chest. While some bears can be identified by a unique pattern on their fur, others don’t have any pattern at all. The rest of their fur can be black, dark brown, or even reddish.

They have a modest, midsize body for a bear. Males weigh up to 440 lbs (200 kg), while females reach only about 180 lbs (82 kg). They are usually only 47-79 inches (120-200 cm) in length. Compared to other bear species, spectacled bears have a distinctly rounder face and shorter snout.

Their most impressive feature is their superior climbing ability. They just might be the best tree climbers of all bear species.

Shy and peaceful in general, spectacled bears tend to be solitary creatures. Their habitat is in the Andes Mountain Range on the western edge of South America. Throughout countries such as Peru and Ecuador, the bears can be found in cloud forests, high-altitude grasslands, scrub deserts, and dry forests. Spectacled bears can feel comfortable at elevations up to 15,4000 feet (4,700 m)!

The breeding season of the spectacled bear is between March and October. Gestation lasts between 160 to 255 days, and mothers generally give birth to two cubs at a time.

Cubs weigh around 300 grams, and they stay with their mothers for a year or a bit longer before heading out on their own.

Their diet is diverse, and the bears are both herbivorous and carnivorous. Meat makes up only a small portion (5-10%) of their diet. Spectacled bears prefer juicy fruits, plants, and vegetables!

Listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, spectacled bears suffer most from poaching and habitat loss due to trophy hunting, the pet trade, and logging and farming.

Did you know?

  • The main natural predators of spectacled bears are mountain lions and jaguars.

  • Spectacled bears can survive up to 38 years in captivity. They live much shorter lives in the wild.

  • Young bears will learn all the skills required for survival from their mother.

  • Spectacled bears reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 to 8 years.

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