MNN Galleries

10 things you probably don't know about bears

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on Oct. 20, 2015, 9:36 a.m.
The spectacled bear is also known as the Andean bear.

Photo: Lighttraveler/Shutterstock

10 of 12

This is the only bear species in the Southern Hemisphere

All of the world's bears live in the Northern Hemisphere, save one. The spectacled bear has cream-colored markings around its eyes, often resembling the frames of glasses, though the markings may extend down to the bear's neck and chest. Each bear has its own very unique set of markings, making it easy to distinguish individuals.

This species goes by two names, the spectacled bear after its unique coloration, or the Andean bear after the location in which it is found. They are found almost entirely in the Andes Mountains, ranging from western Venezuela down to western Bolivia, and sometimes even into northwest Argentina.

This species is not only the last remaining bear species in the Southern Hemisphere but it is also the last remaining short-faced bear species. Perhaps its most famous close relative is the giant short-faced bear which roamed North America up until around 11,000 years ago, and reached up to 12-feet tall when standing on its hind legs.

While that extinct relative was one of the largest land-based mammalian carnivores on Earth, the spectacled bear is only 4-6 feet long and enjoys a diet mostly of fruits and bromeliads, with the very occasional meal of meat from insects or rodents.