Spectacled Bear successes and challenges

A few days ago one of our rangers  filmed this large male Spectacled Bear in cultivated fields near his village, close to our Naturetrek Reserve.

This year we have been thrilled to see a dramatic increase in Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) sightings around our Naturetrek, Cerro Candelaria, and Machay reserves, which together form the “Forests in the Sky” wildlife corridor between the Llanganates and Sangay national parks. We have been protecting these bears and their habitat for ten years now, and apparently we have been quite successful.

However, this brings new challenges as bears and people  begin to compete for the same food. As one example, bears love the corn that the local people grow, and they can systematically destroy a farmer’s crop, as we showed in this camera-trap video:

In the last few weeks we have heard reports of a more serious conflict, perhaps with the big male bear filmed in the video at the top of this post. The reports, which are not confirmed, blame bears for killing several calves. There was one well-known case of a rogue Spectacled Bear killing calves in northern Ecuador a few years ago, and I have seen a camera-trap photo of a Spectacled Bear attacking a grown Mountain Tapir, so this is not impossible, though it is very rare. Our rangers are investigating these reports. If they turn out to be true, we have a challenging problem on our hands. The owners of these calves are not big ranchers with hundreds of head; these are poor individuals with only a handful of cows at any one time.A calf is a very big deal for its owner, not something whose loss can be easily absorbed.

On the other hand, many reports elsewhere of cattle deaths due to bears have been based on circumstantial evidence and may have actually been cases of scavenging bears. For now, we can only gather the facts as carefully as possible. We hope that these latest reports will prove to be unfounded….I’ll write more when we know more facts.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

2 thoughts on “Spectacled Bear successes and challenges

  1. Hi Lou,
    It’s so nice to hear of this update on your reserves that I have helped support!
    Only the first video played on my iPad but it was good footage, btw.

    While I am only familiar with North American black bear and grizzly bear behavior, if spectacled bears have the potential for deadly human conflict, perhaps this individual should be trapped, tranquilizer, and relocated deeper within the preserve if a territory has not been claimed by another male. This would involve great time and effort as you know but might be the bear’s best chance. I understand that local farmers might shoot on sight even if there is no evidence of direct conflict. Another option I’ve heard of successfully used is to safely ward away a top level predator by the use of firecrackers, urine, any distraction makers that send an alarm so the animal can move away.

    I’m sure you know of these techniques and may hopefully have access to a bear biologist in Ecuador.
    Good luck and let’s hope this male bear has a safe life for all involved!
    Thanks for all your hard work,

  2. Pingback: Bear update and puma problems too | Fundacion EcoMinga

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