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Thursidae - Tremarctos ornatus Edition

You wouldn’t hit a bear with glasses, would you?

The Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) is the only extant species of bear native to South America, and the only living member of the Tremarctinae subfamily of bears. Spectacled Bears are, technically-speaking, the largest land carnivores of South America, though they mostly feed on things other than meat. They’re also among the largest animals native to South America, along with Jaguars and tapirs. Compared to bears, however, they are mid-sized. Because they are found almost exclusively in the Andes Mountains, they are also called Andean bears or Andean short-faced bears. Local names for them include ukuku or ukumari (Quechua), and jukumari (Aymara).


Spectacled Bears get their name from the distinctive pale markings on their faces, which sometimes completely encircles their eyes. The rest of their coat is dark brown or black, and the patterns of the pale face markings are unique to each bear. Adult males are larger than adult females, measuring about 5 feet in body length and weighing 440 pounds (200 kg). Females have about half that mass, weighing approximately 180 pounds (82 kg). They have round heads and relatively short snouts compared to other bears.

The diet of Spectacled Bears are mostly herbivorous, with only 5 to 7 percent of their diets comprising meat. They eat many kinds of plants, including bamboo hearts, cactus, bromeliads, frailejon, palm nuts, orchid bulbs, young palm leaves, and fruit. Like the Giant Panda, the Spectacled Bear has well-developed zygomatic mandibular muscles, which helps them to consume extremely tough plants. They also spend a lot of time up in trees, and in the Andes they are active at any time during the day or night. They also have a taste for cultivated plants like corn and sugar cane, and will eat insects and prey on small animals.


Although mating can happen during any time of the year, most Spectacled Bears mate between April and June. These bears are usually solitary animals, spending most of their lives alone, but mating pairs will spend up to two weeks in each other’s company. Pregnant females usually give birth around December, during the dry season. Litters consist of one to three cubs, and litter size correlates with the weight of the mother as well as the abundance of food. The cubs will stay with their mother for up to one year before setting off on their own.


Though Spectacled Bears are legally protected in much of their range, this protection is rarely enforced and they are hunted as a means of pest control (though extensive study shows that they rarely eat meat). Their gall bladders are also prized in traditional Chinese medicine, and are traded on the black market. Spectacled Bears are also vulnerable to habitat loss, as more and more of their range is lost to logging and agriculture. The Andean cloud forest now comprises about 5% of what it once did.

Source for all images used in this post.

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