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Andean bear behavior is
still not fully understood. They are such shy, cautious
it is difficult to study them in the wild, and their behavior in
captivity may not necessarily be the same.
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.
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.
Andean Bears are agile
climbers, not only
of trees but also of rock walls. They are also very good
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
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
deeply for a few hours before sunrise and their activity increases
again as it gets light.
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
The bears don't sleep in the high platforms overnight,
but use them for resting or eating during the day. These
platforms are not used for giving birth or raising
explained in the Bear
Ecology page, bears eat corn and
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.
Andean bears are solitary
animals, rarely coming into
contact with other bears. However, they do interact with each
a certain extent and seem to leave messages for other bears.
messages on various types of trees, including especially those
of the cedrillo family (Brunelia
sp.). They do this by
their backs against the tree trunks, leaving scratch marks with their
perhaps urinating or leaving a hormonal secretion around the scratched
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,
searching for female of the species for a good time in the
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
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
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
have a page to themselves.
bears do not hibernate. Their range in the neotropics has
high levels of biodiversity and there is sufficient food available all
Bear Conservation Project: Bear Behavior
Behavior of the Andean or spectacled bear