Spectacled bears are unique bears native to South America. Unfortunately, due to hunting and habitat pressures, the spectacled bear is considered to be a vulnerable species, and several conservation organizations would like to see greater protections for the spectacled bear in the wild. These bears are also held in captivity at conservation parks in various regions of the world, where they are bred to ensure that the species remains intact, even if it becomes threatened or extinct in the wild.
These bears are found in Northern and Western South America, and they are the only surviving bear species in South America, so if one sees a bear on this continent, it is safe to assume that it's a spectacled bear. These bears are part of what was once a larger bear group, the short-faced bears, and they are known formally as Tremarctos ornatus. They are also relatively small when compared to bear relatives in other regions of the world.
The distinguishing feature of the spectacled bear is the yellowish to creamy markings which are found on the heads and upper chests of these otherwise black to dark brown animals. Often, these markings do look remarkably like a set of glasses, explaining the common name. These markings are also unique to each bear, and bears are capable of identifying each other from their markings alone; essentially, the marking is like a fingerprint.
The spectacled bear is primarily arboreal, climbing in trees to collect fruit, leaves, insects, and grubs, although these bears will also make dens, especially during breeding season. The spectacled bear found primarily at high altitude, typically in heavily forested regions, and they tend to keep to themselves, expect between April and June, when the bears meet to breed; the females produce litters of two cubs in the summer.
The trait of shyness has made the spectacled bear challenging to study. These bears generally have relaxed dispositions, and they prefer to avoid people, other bears, and potential predators rather than confronting them. As a result, trying to track spectacled bears in the wild is very challenging, and people rarely encounter spectacled bears. These mostly vegetarian animals are not known to be aggressive, despite rumors to the contrary.
In the wild, spectacled bears are hunted by some farmers who think that they are destructive to crops and livestock. The bears are also hunted for body parts used in traditional medicines; many spectacled bear parts make their way to China, where they are sold by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of conditions. This combined with shrinking habitat has put pressure on the bears in the wild.