Bears in Peru, WildSide, World Wild Web

Going on a bear hunt

We’re in Colombia, looking at some ancient statues, and somebody says, “there’s a village nearby here, the baby spectacled bears come down from the mountains for bananas, it’s only an hour away by motorbike, or 3 hours by horse”. Chris and I exchange glances, here we go again…

Bears in Peru, WildSide, World Wild Web

On the way up the hill in the mud in Corosha.

Flashback 6 months. I am researching where to see spectacled bears in Peru in the wild. You know, like Paddington, but not as in to marmalade sandwiches. There is one place to see bears in Peru, Maquipucuna, which could be a good place. However they post on their Facebook page when the bears are around, and they don’t seem to be there now. I then stumble across a blog (now currently offline), where someone charts their experience with the spectacled bears in Peru near Corosha. And a few more internet searches later, and especially the lure of the mythical golden spectacled bear, only recorded there, we hatch a plan that we should find our way there. Alanna overhears, and says she’d like to come too.

To say that Corosha is off the beaten track is wrong. The track to Corosha is very much beaten. So beaten in fact that we feel it in our bones as we jerk about in the back of a collectivo from San Juan. We are at hour 3 of our journey, hot, tired, and filled with a sense of anticipation. We have got in touch with a charity called Yunkawasi, which has confirmed that yes, there are spectacled bears. Yes, we can go and look for them. And yes, they will sort us out with accommodation.

Bears in Peru, WildSide, World Wild Web

Waiting for bears and eating some homemade food at the top of the hill.

When we arrive at the town there is some kind of community festival going on. We eventually find the office of Yunkawasi who show us pictures of bears and we meet a young researcher particularly interested in Peruvian Night Monkeys. They are another rare species quite easily seen from here. We are then whisked away on a very short hike by an experienced guide. We find the monkeys only about 20 minutes’ walk from the village. Their big round saucer eyes peer at us from the trees, and we peer back up until they scurry away, unafraid into the approaching night. A lovely start, but we’re here for the bears.

Later, at dinner, an incredibly tasty Peruvian traditional potato and egg dish of papas rellenas cooked by one of the women. She is part of the network surrounding the charity. Her sons invite us to dance at the community festival. We politely decline, because at 4:30AM, we’re going on a bear hunt.

Before the dawn we wake, and begin the walk up the hill. We’ve understood that the earlier you get up the mountain to the clearing at the top where bears have been seen, the better. Like many animals the bears are more active when it is not hot. The walk is beautiful, but arduous. On occasion the mud is up to our knees. The guide skips up the hill and pauses only briefly every now and again as we gulp water or eat a boiled egg. It takes about 4 hours to reach the top, where we settle down to wait. We’ve come ill-equipped for the weather, which is cold and misty. No bears come.

Bears in Peru, WildSide, World Wild Web

No bears but still beautiful.

On the way down the mountain I ask the guide when the bears were last seen, and he says last year. The charity has been focussing on monitoring the monkeys which are easier to see. We later read another blog that suggests we went in a month when the bears do not appear to the clearing. If only some kind of website existed that tracked the best months, time and places to see wildlife… and an idea begins to form…

Have you been to Corosha? Or Maquipucuna? Or have you seen spectacled bears in the wild elsewhere? Submit a report to record your sightings, or lack of them, here!

Lizzie Hyatt

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