Spectacled Bear sightings Part 2

Yesterday I posted a Spectacled Bear video taken by one of our rangers near his home town of El Placer, close to our Naturetrek Reserve. Today I received more videos of the same sighting, taken from the village schoolhouse. All the kids got to see the bear! You can hear their excitement in the background.

And the video from yesterday, taken by the people who appear in the last few seconds of the above video:

 

These bears are damaging the people’s crops, but perhaps we can turn this problem into an advantage for the village. If the bears came often enough, it may be possible for the village to earn some money from tourism. Perhaps the village could actually plant crops for the bears. The challenge will be to find an equitable way to ensure that enough tourism money goes to the farmers who do that.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation

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

Releasing a rescued Spectacled Bear in our Rio Zunac Reserve

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Ukumari wakes up in his new home as the anesthesia wears off. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

Jeremy La Zelle and Greg Taylor, the men behind Backpacker Films, visited Banos in September 2015. When they heard about the pending release of a rescued Spectacled Bear in our Rio Zunac Reserve, they asked to join the release team.

The young bear had been found by a farmer two years earlier, badly injured. Doctors performed surgery on it and saved its life. Sebastian Kohn, director of Centro de Rescate Ilitio on the slopes of Volcan Cotopaxi, took it into his care and raised it, taking care to maintain its wild character and not turn it into a pet. The goal was always to return it to the wild. He fed it while hidden so that it did not associate food with people, and the bear kept its distrust of humans.

When Volcan Cotopaxi began to erupt, the Centro de Rescate suddenly had to close, so the bear had to be released quickly. The Ministry of the Environment asked us to receive the bear and assist in its release. Our rangers and a team of specialists carried the bear on a stretcher for several hours to take it to good habitat away from humans. Jeremy and Greg filmed the whole process, and the video below, released a few days ago, is the result.

 

It’s a testament to the best elements of our own species that so many people put so much effort and so much heart into the rescue and rehabilitation of this poor bear:

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The team of veterinarians, bear experts, “stepfather” Sebastian Kohn (yellow shirt at left), and EcoMinga rangers (Luis and Santiago Recalde, not in view, and Fausto Recalde holding the intravenous serum bag). Photo: Santiago Recalde?EcoMinga.

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EcoMinga Ranger Luis Recalde holds the bear’s head while the veterinarian tapes its claws to minimize danger to the crew. Photo: Santiago Recalde/EcoMinga.

The bear, after its release, wandered widely and was filmed by camera traps up to seven kilometers from its release site. It was last recorded alive and well about six months after its release, but its body was later found by Ministry of the Environment field staff, well outside our reserve. Some speculated that the bear had been attacked by another bear, but we don’t really know.

Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga

 

More cat food


The last two posts (here, and here) have been devoted to camera trap videos taken in a single spot in our Dracula Reserve. It is amazing to see how much life there is in just this one spot. Here are a few more animals, near the bottom of the food chain: a Sickle-winged Guan (Chamaepetes goudotii) and a rodent. This is  the same spot where the camera filmed puma and jaguarundi. And nearby we’ve filmed ocelots as well.  The smaller animals shown here are potential prey for all these cats, though probably the jaguarundi and ocelot would be more interested than the puma.

As if the cats weren’t enough for the guan to worry about, the Black-and-chestnut Eagle (Spizaetus isidori) also hunts guans regularly. In our Rio Zunac Reserve we’ve observed that the eagle feeds its young almost exclusively on guans.

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Balck-and-chestnut Eagle photographed by Roger Ahlman near what is now the Dracula Reserve, Carchi, Ecuador. Used with Roger’s kind permission.

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Photo by Mark Wilson of our Rio Zunac Black-and-chestnut Eagle bringing a piece of a guan to its nestling.

 

We have a report of an ocelot eating a Black-and-chestnut Eagle in the Banos area, so even this can be cat food!
Camera trap set up by Javier Robayo, Juan Pablo Reyes, and  Hector Yela. Camera courtesy University of Basel Botanical Garden.

Lou Jost
EcoMinga Foundation

 

Jaguarundi, Spectacled Bear, and Puma pass by our Dracula Reserve camera trap

In our Dracula Reserve in northwest Ecuador, Javier Robayo, Juan Pablo Reyes, and ranger Hector Yela set up a camera trap to monitor one of our trails. We left it there for two months. It was a well-chosen spot and several different species of mammals marked their territories right in front of the camera.

The most exciting for us was a fleeting glimpse of a slick, agile Jaguarundi (with the curious Latin name  Puma yagouaroundi). This was the first time our camera traps had recorded this species.

On another day a puma (Felis concolor) walks past the very same sot and marks his territory. A puma (the same one?) also passed here at night.

A Spectacled Bear (Tremarctos ornatus) also thought this same spot would be a good place to scent-mark his territory by rubbing his back against a special tree. We have often recorded this back-rubbing behavior in our reserves’ camera traps (see here and here for examples).

Finally a little antpitta of the genus Grallaria also comes down this same trail. I am not sure of the species. If any reader knows, please tell us in the comments.

Lou Jost, EcoMinga Foundation