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Andean Bear

Tremarctos ornatus

Did you know?

  • Andean bears are part of the Ursidae family, a family they share with other bears.
  • They also are known as spectacled bears due to the coloration around their eyes.
  • They live in a variety of habitats around the Andean mountains that range from mountain forests to coastal scrublands.
  • They are midsized bears, and an adult ranges between four and six feet long and two to three feet tall at the shoulder.
  • They are the only bears native to South America.


Due to their elusive nature, little is known about Andean bears in the wild. But we do know they are highly adaptable animals. They are opportunistic omnivores, which means they can eat a variety of meats and plants. Their long, strong claws allow them to be exceptional climbers. Their thick, short hair helps keep them dry, which is especially useful in humid and wet climates.

Arboreal Life

Andean bears are true arboreal bears, which means they spend most of their time off the ground. They are very skilled climbers, often reaching the tops of the tallest trees in rainforests or climbing steep, rocky terrain as high as 14,000 feet in search of food. They also build nests and platforms in trees, on which they sleep, eat, and raise their young.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild


The Andean Bear is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Andes and outlying mountain ranges, from western Venezuela south to Bolivia.


Forests, bush-covered mountains

We care about Andean Bears.

Andean bears are an important flagship species for the unique and fragile Tropical Andes ecosystem, the richest and most biologically diverse region on Earth. The species faces many threats, including habitat reduction and fragmentation, and high mortality due to human-caused factors.

The Saint Louis Zoo has participated in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP) for Andean bears since its inception in the 1980s. We support multiple Andean bears at the Zoo. The Andean Bear SSP Coordinator and Studbook keeper positions for the AZA population are held by Saint Louis Zoo staff.

Additionally, through the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute, we support the Andean Bear Conservation Alliance. In 2019, we were a supporting partner in the successful application for the AZA Andean Bear SAFE program, which works to consolidate and focus the conservation efforts by accredited zoos for this species.

Learn more about how we are helping wildlife around the world.

Dedicated to Conservation

Find this animal in River's Edge


River's Edge

Take a journey along a mythical waterway through four continents to discover how wildlife, plants and people interact. River's Edge is the Saint Louis Zoo's first immersion exhibit—a lushly planted naturalistic environment showcasing multiple species from around the world.

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