Oso de anteojos (Sp), Brillenbär (G), Ours à lunettes (F). The common name is because of the white markings around the eyes. Also called Andean bear and, locally, ucumari. Believed to be the only survivor of a group of short-faced bears that occurred in North and South America during the most recent Glacial Age.
DESCRIPTION (male) The spectacled bear measures 5-7 feet (1.5-2.1 m) in length, 30-32 inches (76-81 cm) in shoulder height, and weighs 200-300 pounds (91-136 kg), sometimes as much as 385 pounds (175 kg). The female is much smaller, weighing 130-135 pounds (60-61 kg).
A smaller bear, it has a long, shaggy coat that is uniformly black or dark brown except for large white circles or semicircles around the eyes, a white semicircle under the chin, and white lines down the chest. The white markings differ from bear to bear and may be lacking completely in some individuals. The skull is comparatively large, but has a characteristically short facial profile. There are 13 pairs of ribs, one fewer than in other bears.
BEHAVIOR Usually solitary, or a mother with her cubs; however, sometimes an adult male will be with a family group. Nothing is known of its breeding habits in the wild except that births seem to be timed to coincide with the fruit season. In zoos, the female bears a litter of 1-2 cubs (occasionally three) during the winter, after a gestation period of 5-1/2-8 months, which biologists think may involve delayed implantation. Life span in captivity is 20-25 years, with one individual living 36 years.
Mainly active during twilight and at night, resting in shelter during the day. Does not hibernate. More of a vegetarian than most bears, it feeds largely on fruits, moving from place to place as different ones ripen, and also on plants of the family Bromeliaceae, especially when fruit is unavailable. Climbs trees to feed on fruit and leaves; while in a tree it sometimes pulls together a platform of broken branches on which it rests or stands to reach for fruit. It also eats a small amount of animal matter, including insects, rodents and carrion, and reportedly preys on some domestic animals, young deer, guanacos and vicunas. It is a frequent raider of corn fields. The alarm call is a screech and there is also an owl-like call. Females and cubs communicate with a trilling sound.
HABITAT Lives in a variety of habitats and altitudes from 600-13,800 feet (180-4,200 m). Prefers humid forests between 6,200-7,700 feet (1,900-2,300 m), but is also found in high-altitude grasslands and lower scrub deserts.
DISTRIBUTION Mountains of western Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and western Bolivia.
STATUS Reportedly becoming rare in parts of Peru because of intensive hunting by landowners who consider it a stock predator and crop raider, and by local people who utilize its meat, skin and fat. Listed on Appendix I of CITES (1977).