Reproduction

Information on reproduction in this species is limited. Litter size is thought to be two in more typical spectacled bear habitat although one cub is more common in the dry forest of northern Peru. The timing of births in the wild has rarely been observed, but in captivity birthing varies with latitude (Garshelis 2004). Our observations in northern Peru suggested a seasonal influx of bears to our study area during summer (December to March) which coincides with the ripening of the sapote fruit (Capparis angulata).

Pairings of bears, breeding, vocalizations and other behaviours, were also observed during this time; we suspect that timing of bear reproduction may be closely linked to availability of this key fruit. In 2009-2011 we discovered 5 active maternal den sites between August and October suggesting a gestation period of 240 days. To our knowledge, these are the first observations of mating and denning in this species in the wild, with the exception of a natal den discovered in 2010 in Ecuador’s cloud forest. That den contained a newborn cub in March, suggesting that timing of reproductive events may be keyed to local cues, rather than genetic or circannual patterns.

A female gives birth in protected dens but little is known about how she chooses her den site. SBC has discovered 5 active maternal den sites and it was found that the females had a preference for dens with two entries and used materials such as sticks and dried plants to make a bed. Cubs first leave the safety of the den when they are a few months old.

Shortly after the cub is born the female leaves the den to feed and drink. Once the female needs to travel further distances to meet her nutritional requirements she carries the cub around in her mouth, traveling distances of 200-400meters per day in the first month or so after leaving the den. Spectacled bears are thought to use vocal communication more than any other bear except the giant panda. Andean bears make unique vocalizations, which are quite "un-bear-like": a shrill screech and a soft, purring sound. Female bears may use different vocalizations to communicate with their cubs.

SPECTACLED BEAR CONSERVATION SOCIETY — PERU

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