With strong legs and claws for mountain climbing, Andean bears are built for the high-life. In the cloud forests of their mountainous habitat, they live from 600 to 14,000 feet above sea level. They spend lots of time up in the trees, feeding, resting, and sleeping in nests they build there. Aside from mothers with cubs, they usually travel solo, though sometimes they gather to eat at a particularly good feeding site. They do not hibernate because food is available to them year-round.
Andean bears are omnivores, but eat mainly plants. They will wait patiently in trees for days for fruit to ripen. They also eat insects and small mammals.
Andean bears give birth to one or two cubs, which stay close by their side for the first 8 months. Females are ready to become mothers by about 4 years. In zoos, these bears can live for more than 25 years.
Population Status & Threats
With as few as 2,400 remaining in the wild, Andean bears are one of the most endangered bear species in the world. They are vulnerable because of habitat loss and killing for their fur and meat.
WCS Conservation Efforts
WCS conservationist biologist Isaac Goldstein has studied these bears in the Andes Mountains for more than 20 years. Goldstein and his colleagues are working with local conservation organizations in Ecuador to census the population and to radio-track a few of the wild bears. This enables them to observe the bears’ activities and determine the size of their home ranges. WCS conservationists in Northwestern Bolivia are also monitoring populations of Andean bears, and working to protect their home in the Madidi landscape from logging and illegal wildlife hunting. The Queens Zoo’s bears are part of a Species Survival Plan, a cooperative breeding program that helps to maintain healthy populations of the animals in zoos throughout the U.S.
Learn more about WCS work to save Andean bears in their natural habitats.