Are There Bears In Brazil?

credit: Peter Parker

The Andean or spectacled bear is a beautiful creature native to South America. They appear small compared to other bears but sustain themselves with a diet of primarily fruits and plants. Spectacled bears have a fascinating history, matched only by their unique, solitary lifestyles!

There are bears in Brazil, specifically the Andean or Spectacled bear. It’s native to South America. Andean bears are most common in western Brazil, where the Amazon rainforest meets the Andes mountains. They are an endangered species, with roughly 6000 – 10 000 in the Northern Andes.

Are Bears Native To Brazil?

The Andean or spectacled bear is the only bear native to South America. It’s an intelligent creature that builds its home in trees and uses the elevation to its advantage for sleeping and eating. These stunning bears get their name from the round, white shapes that encircle their eyes.

They inhabit most of the Andes and outlying mountain ranges, from western Venezuela south to Bolivia. However, some people report seeing them in the far north of Argentina and eastern Panama.

Spectacled bears inhabit various habitats, which makes them unique from other bear species. It’s possible to find them in an arid, dry forest, lush rainforest, or a shrubby elfin forest. They also enjoy foraging in grasslands.

Their preference for making their homes in trees also carries over to higher altitude areas. Many choose to inhabit regions as high as 6,000 – 8,800 ft. (1,829 – 2,682 m) above sea level. Since they are pretty varied in their habitats, it’s not uncommon to find some at lower elevations.

How Big Are Andean Bears?

Andean bears grow 5 – 6 ft. (1.5 – 1.8 m) long and measure 2 – 3 ft. (0.6 – 0.9 m) tall at the shoulder when they stand. Males grow much larger than females, weighing up to 340 lbs (154 kg), while females rarely weigh more than 180 lbs (81 kg).

Are There Grizzly Or Black Bears In Brazil?

There are no grizzly or black bears in Brazil. The primary reasons are how they settled in their habitats and their habitat preferences.

Both bear species evolved from the Etruscan bear (Ursus etruscus), who crossed the Bering land bridge from Asia some 50,000 years ago. As a result, they’re both native to North America.

Black bears preferred wooded settings and a primarily vegetarian diet, whereas grizzlies preferred open regions and a diversified diet of plants and animals. Therefore, they evolved to survive in a much different ecosystem than spectacled bears.

Interestingly, spectacled bears originated from North America, too. The Great American Interchange was a biogeographical event that took place 3 million years ago. The Isthmus of Panama connected North and South America, making it possible for bears to cross from North to South America.

Where Are Spectacled Bears In Brazil?

Spectacled bears inhabit the deep forests of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. It makes them a rarity in Brazil but not entirely impossible to spot. There’s a much higher chance of running into them in certain areas.

More specifically, the odds of seeing a spectacled bear will increase significantly in the western part of Brazil, where the Amazon rainforest meets the Andes mountains.

Are Spectacled Bears In Brazil Protected?

Andean bears are a protected species in Brazil, with around 6000 – 10 000 across South America. The biggest threats these bears face are habitat loss and hunting. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has numbers that indicate around 200 spectacled bears die yearly.

Local inhabitants might hunt these bears to protect themselves, their livestock, and their crops. Some people are unaware of their endangered status, while others believe the bear parts cure skin diseases or conditions like arthritis. These parts fetch a high price in the wildlife trade, too.

Some locals also believe that bear claws keep away evil spirits and bring good fortune.

The development of infrastructure roads and the drive to acquire crops like opium poppy and coca often involves deforestation. These areas are ripe with potential for spectacled bear habitat. The WWF is the leading force behind protecting the Andean bears, pushing for laws to preserve them.

  • They were at the forefront of an ecoregional conservation strategy. With support from other international organizations, they implemented protective plans to safeguard spectacled bears locally.
  • The WWF partnered with TRAFFIC to solve the problem of selling bear parts in the wildlife trade.
  • They collaborate to find solutions for conflicts that involve farmers and bears. They accomplish this by setting up clear communication channels for concerns and finding locations ideal for bear conservation.
  • WWF-Colombia works with organizations within and outside the government to create priority actions that protect the habitats of spectacled bears.

Are Spectacled Bears In Brazil Dangerous?

Spectacled bears are not openly hostile but will become aggressive when they need to defend themselves or their young. They are not pack animals, so they generally travel alone and prefer solitude away from humans.

The exception to their solitary lifestyle is with places with high concentrations of their favorite foods. They enjoy eating oranges, apples, and grapes but sometimes indulge in berries and grass.

Andean bears are particularly fond of a plant called bromeliad because it’s rich in soluble carbohydrates, making it an excellent protein, fat, and nutrient source. They might also hunt small rodents like rabbits and raid cornfields – especially those with maize.

Can Tourists See Spectacled Bears In Brazil?

Fortunately, it’s not necessary to go bear-watching in the wild to see a spectacled bear. Brazil has several zoos with spectacled bears, where the bears have become part of a loving family.

  • Zoológico de São Paulo – The largest zoo in Brazil, with over 3,000 animals of 400 species. It has a pair of spectacled bears named Cholita and Tito, rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Peru.
  • Parque Zoológico Municipal Quinzinho de Barros – Currently one of the oldest zoos in Brazil, located in the city of Sorocaba. It has a male spectacled bear named Paco, born in captivity at the zoo in 2008.
  • Zoológico de Brasília – It’s the national zoo of Brazil, in the capital city of Brasília. It has a female spectacled bear named Nina, also rescued from the illegal wildlife trade in Peru.
  • Zoológico de Curitiba – A zoo located in the city of Curitiba, in the state of Paraná. It has a female spectacled bear named Lola, born in captivity at the zoo in 2010. She is the only spectacled bear in the zoo and lives in an enclosure with artificial rocks, trees, and a waterfall.
  • Zoológico de Goiânia – Named after its city, you’ll find it in the city of Goiânia, in the state of Goiás. It has a male spectacled bear named Chico, transferred from the Zoológico de São Paulo in 2016. He is the only spectacled bear in the zoo, living in an enclosure with natural vegetation and a pool.