Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Andean Bear

Tremarctos ornatus
The Andean Bear is the only Bear species native to South America. It is also sometimes referred to as the Spectacled Bear, due to the lines and light coloration on on their faces than can sometimes resemble eyeglasses.

One really fascinating thing about Andean Bears is that they are the sole surviving member of their subfamily, Tremarctinae. Once upon a time that same subfamily contained the now extint genera of gigantic Short Faced Bears! Crazy to think that the relatively small Andean Bear is most closely related to some of the largest Bears to have ever lived! Though interestingly, even with their small size, they are one of the largest South American land animals, after the Tapirs.

Andean Bears are shy and live solitary lifestyles outside of the mating season. They tend to live up in the higher altitudes, and will come down sometimes to search for food. Though many farmers fear them as livestock predators, and consider them to be agricultural pests, Andean Bears rarely eat meat and consume a mostly vegetarian diet. When the need for meat arrives, they typically only take small creatures like rodents and birds.

Habitat loss has been hurting these bears, and as they are forced into more agricultural areas the bad rap that they get from farmers continues to spread. Hunting due to their perceived pest status, as well as for fur and meat, has led the Andean Bears to be listed as Vulnerable.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : South America
Size : Weight up to 340lbs (154kg) in males, 180lbs (82kg) in females
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Ursidae -- Subfamily : Tremarctinae -- Genus : Tremarctos -- Species : T. ornatus

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