Dinner guest in the Rio Zunac Reserve. Video by Alyssa Kullberg.
Two weeks ago we posted our reserve guard Santiago Recalde’s video of a close encounter with a fearless Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque) in our Rio Zunac Reserve. Last week Santiago returned to the same reserve with Alyssa Kullberg, a Fulbright Scholar who has just arrived here to spend the next nine months studying our new Magnolia species. They have just come back from the reserve this evening with news of their an astounding encounter with another of our large mammals, a Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus).
Alyssa told me that during the whole 4 hour hike from the roadhead to our very remote research station, they were seeing fresh Mountain Tapir, Spectacled Bear, and Puma tracks on the trail. They stayed a week in the reserve, and one day, while they were in the forest, a Spectacled Bear entered the station and stole some food. Later, while Alyssa and Santiago were eating dinner, the bear came back for more food, and approached the station quite closely (even though Alyssa and Santiago were loudly conversing) until it caught their scent. Even after catching their scent, the bear did not seem very frightened, as it paused to think about eating a young palm tree next to the trail.
Spectacled Bear coming to share dinner with Alyssa and Santiago. Note the Magnolia buds on the table in the foreground; most neotropical Magnolia species open only at night, so we have to collect the buds and care for them until nightfall. Photo: Alyssa Kullberg.
While we have seen tracks around the cabin before, and have had some minor bear damage in the past, this is the first time a bear has been this bold. We may be the victims of our own success in protecting this reserve– the animals are losing their fear of humans, so we may be heading for the kinds of bear problems that are common in North American national parks. We will try to be extra careful to protect our food, though this will not be easy. In any case, I’d rather have this problem than the problem of not having bears!
Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation