The rare and endangered spectacled or Andean bear is the only bear native to South America. It is the continent's largest carnivore and second-largest land mammal, after the tapir.

One of their names comes from a distinctive light-coloured marking around their eyes, which makes it look like they're wearing glasses; other than that they are dark and shaggy, sometimes with a stripe or two across their chests. Their other name comes from their habitat. They live in the Andean mountains, in moist tropical forests among the clouds, between the lower desert scrub and the higher alpine meadows. They subsist off fruit and other plant matter, including orchid pseudo-bulbs, palm nuts and leaves, sugarcane, and corn. They like bromeliads. A small portion of the diet comes from insects, small rodents, birds, and carrion. Spectacled bears are excellent climbers and spend a great deal of time in trees, bending branches to make a nest from which they feed and on which they sleep.

Besides being endangered, spectacled bears are very shy, and little is known about them in the wild. It's thought that they do not hibernate, but as researchers can spend years looking for them and catch a glimpse of only a few, no one really knows for sure. You may see a spectacled bear at a zoo, but you're very unlikely to see one in its true home environment.

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