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Bear Behavior

Andean bear behavior is still not fully understood.  They are such shy, cautious animals that it is difficult to study them in the wild, and their behavior in captivity may not necessarily be the same. 
Feeding Behavior: Andean bears are very adaptable and opportunistic, so it is not possible to talk about an "average" bear.  Their diet and behavior depends on their local habitat, so it is necessary to specify the bear's location.  Those living in cloud forest habitats in the north of Ecuador (the study area of this project) have a diet largely based on the bamboo-like "suro".  The bears eat the juicy stems of the plant by ripping them open using their claws and using the hind limbs to hold them in position.  In a similar way, bears in the paramo feed mainly on the stems of frailejon plants.  The bear eats them in the same way as the suro, tearing them open and eating the soft centre.  The agile bears climb trees to access epiphytic bromeliads (plants which grow on tree branches) and tree fruits such as figs and wild avocadoes.  Bears also dig holes in the ground to forage for beetles, worms and other various insects as a source of protein in their diet.
Agility:  Andean Bears are agile climbers, not only of trees but also of rock walls.  They are also very good swimmers.  
Activity patterns: Andean bears are diurnal (active during daylight hours) and crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk).  They are NOT nocturnal, though you may find incorrect information stating that they are - this is from a time when very little was known about the bears.  They snooze at times during the day, but are mostly active.  Andean bear activity declines as it gets dark, they sleep deeply for a few hours before sunrise and their activity increases again as it gets light.
Platforms: Andean bears build platform structures high up in trees by pulling down branches and lianas to form a flat area large enough and strong enough to take their weight.  The bears don't sleep in the high platforms overnight, but use them for resting or eating during the day.  These arboreal platforms are not used for giving birth or raising cubs.  As explained in the Bear Ecology page, bears eat corn and very occasionally livestock.  The bears also seem to use the platforms for spying on cornfields and cow fields, perhaps to pick a suitable moment to enter the cornfield or attack a cow.  This contradicts the ethologist school of thought that animals only act upon instinct, and do not think coherently.  
Social Interaction: Andean bears are solitary animals, rarely coming into contact with other bears.  However, they do interact with each other to a certain extent and seem to leave messages for other bears.  Bears leave messages on various types of trees, including especially those of the cedrillo family (Brunelia sp.).  They do this 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.  Having olfaction (smell) as their principal sense, other bears can detect these signals from far away.  One reason for leaving messages might be to pass on news to the opposite sex of their presence in a certain part of the forest for mating in the bears’ equivalent of a lonely hearts column.  Male bear, 2 metres tall, age 11 with spectacles, outgoing nature, searching for female of the species for a good time in the trees... 
Andean bears are very cautious and avoid contact with humans.  Due to their excellent sense of smell, it is rare for a human to get close to an Andean bear, but in these cases usually the bears will turn around and run or climb the nearest tree. 
Reproduction: Occasionally, when a female is on heat, there may be a number of males following her and perhaps even fighting for her attentions.  The bears usually give birth to one or two cubs.  It is not known exactly how long bear cubs stay with the mother in the wild, but we believe around a year.  Little is known about reproduction of Andean bears in the wild, but some zoo bears have bred successfully in captivity.  Andean bear cubs have a page to themselves. 
Hibernation: Andean bears do not hibernate.  Their range in the neotropics has high levels of biodiversity and there is sufficient food available all year round.
Andean Bear Conservation Project: Bear Behavior
Behavior of the Andean or spectacled bear
Bear behavior: Andean bear on platform in tree
Marking behavior: scratch marking on tree made by Andean bear
Bear behavior: marking on tree
Platform made by Andean bear
Bear behaviour: Andean bear in tree
Spectacled bear in sanctuary