Spectacled bear (captive animal) Photo courtesy of HOTNStock

Andean (spectacled) bear (Tremarctos ornatus)


 Andean bears are South America’s only bear and are found in the Andean cloud forests at heights of up to 4,300 metres (14,000 feet) in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.  Largely but not exclusively vegetarian, bears will descend in search of food and have been observed in steppe lands and coastal deserts.

Small and shy, the bears are largely nocturnal.  Males are up to two metres in length and weigh up to about 154 kilograms.  Females are considerably smaller weighing up to around 82 kilograms.  The shaggy coat varies in colour and can be black, brown or reddish with a lighter colouration often present on the upper chest, muzzle and around the eyes.  These latter markings give the bear its common name of “spectacled bear”.

Andean bears are agile climbers and make leafy platforms in trees to rest and feed.  They do not hibernate and are generally solitary except when accompanied by cubs.  Mating can occur at any time but peaks during the wet season in April, May and June.

Gestation takes 65 days but the female experiences delayed implantation with births usually occurring in the dry season of December, January and February.  Births are typically within a maternity den and cubs remain with the mother for up to about eight months.

Andean bears are classed as vulnerable to extinction with a decreasing population.  Longevity in the wild is unknown but can be up to 25 years in zoos.

For an up to date and detailed map of the distribution of Tremarctos ornatus click here to open the IUCN map viewer.


Status: Classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List and listed in Appendix I of CITES.  Numbers thought to be decreasing but more research is required.

Kingdom: Animalia  Phylum: Chordata  Class: Mammalia  Order: Carnivora  Family: Ursidae

Genus and species: Tremarctos ornatus (F. G. Cuvier, 1825).  There are no recognised subspecies.

General description: Pelage short and thick. The bears have strong claws and are unique in only having 13 pairs of ribs; all other species of bear have 14.

Size: Males up to two metres in length and up to 90 cm in height at shoulder.

Weight: Males up to 170 kg, females to 85 kg

Life Expectancy:  20 to 25 years in the wild.

Also known as:  Spectacled bear, Achupalla (“tree-bark eater”) or  ucumari (“bear with eye in hole”).

Click here to download our comprehensive pdf species factsheet on the Andean bear


Present-day distribution of the Andean (spectacled) bear – based on IUCN Red List of Threatened Species).  For an up to date and detailed map of the distribution of  Tremarctus ornatus click here to open the IUCN species page


Poaching threatens South America’s only bear species (article published 31 May 2019) (opens in new window)

 For information on the Andean Bear Project click here

Click here to download our comprehensive pdf species factsheet on the Andean bear

The video below, from German public broadcaster DW, looks at spectacled bear conservation efforts in Colombia in the face of poaching, rapid urban growth and increasing deforestation.





Page updated 17 February 2022