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Spectacled Bear

Staging site


©Nigel Simpson

© Lou Jost

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Scientific Name: Tremarctos ornatus

IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable

Protected by the following WLT projects:


Species Range (IUCN)


The Spectacled Bear, or Andean Bear, is a relatively small black or dark brown bear and is the only bear found in South America. The species is commonly known as the Spectacled Bear since they often have distinctive white or brown markings encircling their eyes, resembling spectacles. However, the markings are individual to each bear; some have very faint markings, perhaps only on one side of the face, and some have plain black faces with no spectacle markings at all.


Spectacled Bears are active during the day and are very opportunistic; their diet and behaviour depends on their local habitat.  They are mainly vegetarian; their diet mostly comprises fruit, leaves and honey, but they also forage for insects and occasionally feed on small mammal such as birds and mice. Since there is sufficient food available all year round, Spectacled Bears do not hibernate.

Spectacled Bears are very good climbers and have been observed to build platforms in trees by pulling down branches and lianas to form a flat area on which they may feed and rest.  They are generally solitary animals and leave messages for other bears by rubbing their backs against the tree trunks, leaving scratch marks with their claws, and perhaps urinating or leaving a hormonal secretion around the scratched area. Like all bears, Spectacled Bears have a highly developed sense of smell.

The bears usually give birth to one or two cubs between December and February and it is though that the cubs stay with the female for around a year.


The species is found only in the Andes mountain range in South America, in a narrow strip running from western Venezuela through the Andes in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, and ending in northwest Argentina. They generally live in forested areas but can also be found in more open scrub land.

Threats and Conservation

Spectacled Bear numbers have declined considerably as a result of habitat fragmentation and hunting. In areas where forests have been felled and replaced by cornfields, bears have acquired the taste for maize, and are consequently the target of farmers who sometimes shoot the bears to prevent them from feeding on their crops.  The species is also vulnerable due to poaching to meet the high demand for bear gall bladder in Asia. The gall bladders are highly sought after for medicinal purposes and despite the ban on trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) the bears continue to be killed illegally.


Learn more

See IUCN Red List of Threatened Species for more information on the classification of the Spectacled Bear.
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