Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Smithsonian Bear News!

Congratulations to the Smithsonian Zoological Park for the upcoming debut of the Andeans bear cubs born in December! We're very excited to watch them play and grow, and for you to be able to share this joy with the community!

For the first month, mom Billie Jean, and cubs were being monitored solely by camera in order to most closely resemble events in the wild. No keepers entered the private den, nor did Billie Jean bring the cubs to the main den. Slowly Billie Jean began bringing the cubs out to the main den one at a time, but only for a few moments and would then return to the private den. It wasn't until late their second month that the cubs were separated from their mother, with her approval of course, to do their first veterinary exam. The mortality rate of Andean bear cubs in the first year is 40%, it's no wonder she is cautious.

Like all bears, Andean bears can resorb the fetus at any stage during pregnancy, resulting in one or no bear cubs. Newborn cubs weigh between 10-18 ounces at birth and are practically toothless, bald and blind.

Andean bears are listed as vulnerable, estimated about 2,000 Andean bears exist in the wild. They are the only bear native to South America, and as their name suggests they live in the Andes Mountains.

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