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BEHAVIOUR  - Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

(Editorial Overview Text Replicated on Overall Species page - Tremarctos ornatus - Spectacled bear)
  • Spectacled bears climb trees to reach food such as fruits and bromeliads; they also climb cliffs to reach bromeliads and climb cacti to reach fruits. If a tree is of too large a diameter for climbing, the bear will initially climb a smaller tree or a vine until the larger tree's branches are in reach.
  • High in a tree, the bear may pull and break branches to bring fruits into reach, then stand on the broken branches, making a platform.
  • They tear the bark off pasallo trees (Bombax discolor) to reach and eat the cortex.
  • Bromeliads are eaten by spreading the leaves apart to reach the base, or pulling the plant off its substrate, or pulling out the central portion to reach the base.
  • Palms may be ripped out of the ground if very small, or the leaves flattened and ripped off to reach the petiole.
  • Spectacled bears may carry food, including small carcasses or parts of carcasses, into day beds in trees to feed.
  • They may kill and eat young or sick cattle, and may scavenge carcasses.
  • Individual ears of corn in fields are taken away to be eaten.

Further information on diet is provided in Spectacled bear Tremarctos ornatus - Natural Diet (Literature Reports)

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

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Feeding Behaviour

Source Information

  • These bears often climb trees to get fruit; they may break branches and create a platform, then use this while eating and reaching more fruit. (B147)
  • These bears eat bromeliads by ripping up small plants to eat the heart, and tearing leaves off large bromeliads to feed on the base. they tear young palms open to get the inner, unopened leaves, and strip tree bark to eat the cortex. Large cacti are climbed to reach the fruits. (B147)
  • Spectacled bears often climb trees and vines to reach fruit. (B285.w4)
  • These bears are blamed for killing free-roaming cattle; at least sometimes they may merely be scavenging carcasses. (B285.w4)
  • Spectacled bears climb both trees and cliffs to reach bromeliads. With large bromeliads, individuals leaves or bunches of leaves are torn off, to reach and eat the white base; the bear may use both forefeet to spread the leaves of the bromeliad and reach the base. To eat the heart of smaller bromeliads, the whole plant may be ripped off its substrate. With Tillandsia, often the whole inner column of leaves was pulled out and the base then chewed off. (J332.61.w1)
  • Spectacled bears will climb cacti to reach fruit, as indicated by deep scars left in the cacti. (J332.61.w1)
  • Spectacled bears climb trees to reach fruit. If the fruit-bearing branches will not support the bear's weight, it will climb as far as possible, then pull the branches towards itself, breaking branches as thick as 5 cm diameter, eat the fruit, then stand on the broken branches, using these as a platform to reach more branches. (J332.61.w1)
  • If a tree is very large (e.g. some Ficus), the spectacled bears may climb vines, aerial roots wrapped around the tree trunks, or smaller-diameter trees, until the first branches of the larger tree are in reach. (J332.61.w1)
  • Spectacled bears tear the bark off pasallo trees (Bombax discolor) to reach and eat the cortex. (J332.61.w1)
  • To eat the base of palm petioles, spectacled bears flatten the leaves of a young palm (not yet having a trunk), rip the leaves off then chew the base of the petiole. If the petiole is less than 2 cm diameter, the whole plant may be ripped out of the ground and eaten. (J332.61.w1)
  • Spectacled bears are believed to pursue cattle on steep slopes or by a cliff, to make the cow fall, or if it does not fall, then to grab the head and kill the cow by breaking the neck. In one study in Peru it was noted that of 14 hides of livestock reported killed by bears, nine of the hides showed marks consistent with puma rather than bears (thinner scratches and a more arched paw mark). Bears may be more likely to take meat from large animals as carrion rather than as prey. (J332.61.w1)
  • Spectacled bears often feed on one type of food at a time, as indicated by more than 50% of scats consisting of the remains of a single type of food. (J332.61.w1)
  • Spectacled bears may carry food into day beds in trees to feed; a part-eaten rat was found in one day bed. They are also reported to carry livestock into trees to eat them. (J332.61.w1)
  • Spectacled bears feed on corn about two weeks before it is ripe. Older, more experienced bears generally sniff for human presence from protective cover before entering the field and then sniff again from a high point (rock or fallen log) before acquiring and eating individual ears of corn. The corn is generally eaten within 1 m of cover, or may be carried into he forest to be eaten. (J332.61.w1)
  • A study of the Antisana volcano, Ecuador, found that bears in the subalpine paramo ate the succulent hearts of Puya (Bromeliaceae) as a major food item. It was not possible to determine whether animal remains found in some droppings came from animals killed by bears or scavenging of carcasses. (J451.23.w1)
  • A study in Bolivia and Venezuela was not able to confirm that bears killed cattle, rather than just ate carcasses. However, signs of other predators were lacking around most carcasses, and it was noted that cattle losses could cease after a bear was killed. (J345.13.w3)
  • In Venezuela, spectacled bears prey on young cattle which have been turned loose to graze, unattended, in paramo areas at heights above 2,600 m. The cattle are killed in open pasture but dragged into forest cover before the bear feeds. (P77.1.w1)
    • Bears mainly take young and sick cattle. (P77.1.w3)
  • Bears feed mainly on the basal meristematic portion of bromelids, with the leaves then falling to the forest floor. At Quebrada el Molino, Venezuela, bears fed on Tillandia fendleri, an epiphytic bromeliad, mainly on larger emergent trees, where it was most abundant. (J345.15.w4)
  • In the Oyacachi River Basin, Ecuador, scat analysis suggested that bears shifted between habitats seasonally in response to food availability. (J345.15.w5)

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Authors & Referees


Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)


Ellen Dierenfeld (V.w16), Susanna Paisley (V.w99)

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