From the den camera, we can observe a very attentive mother bear and two small cubs that are moving, wiggling and thriving. The cubs squeal when they want to nurse or be repositioned. Vocalizations that we hear are loud and strong, which is another indicator that the cubs are healthy.
Quito, the Zoo's male Andean bear is the father.
Brienne and Quito bred in late March and early April 2022. When the female is in estrus, a male and female will stay together for a week or two, mating often. A majority of cubs—usually one or two per litter—are born from late October to February.
It is usually dark in Brienne’s den, as it would be in a wild bear's den, but the cams have infrared and low-light capabilities, which allow her and the cub to be visible to cam viewers. This is also why the cam usually looks black and white. Anything that appears to be a “light” is actually the infrared bouncing off of metal objects in the den. There is no light at all visible to Brienne or her cubs..
Zoo staff will not be able to determine the cubs’ sexes until veterinarians can conduct a brief medical exam, which will occur when the cubs are between 8-to-12 weeks old.
Bears in the wild, including Andean bears, give birth in small dens. Zoo keepers strive to recreate these surroundings for Brienne. She always has access to other enclosures, though for the first few months of her cubs lives she will spend the vast majority of her time in the den. She will occasionally venture out to eat, drink, urinate and defecate. Those trips will become increasingly longer as the cubs grow.
Newborn cubs weigh 10 to 18 ounces at birth, and they are practically bald, toothless and blind.
As adults, Andean bears grow four-to-six feet long and stand two-to-three feet high at the shoulder. Males typically weigh between 300 and 350 pounds. Quito currently weighs about 330 pounds (149.5 kilograms). Females typically weigh between 125 and 175 pounds. Brienne currently weighs about 200 pounds (91 kilograms).
Their eyes generally open at 4-6 weeks of age, and they take their first steps soon after. Generally, the cubs do not leave the safety of the den until they are about 3 months old.
Generally, the cubs do not leave the safety of the den until they are about 3 months old. Brienne and cubs will likely make their public debut in early spring 2023. During their denning period, virtual visitors can enjoy a special Andean Bear Cub Cam on the Zoo’s website for a limited time.
Our Andean Bear Exhibit is a secure, dry area protected from the elements that is well-stocked with food for Quito, Brienne and their cubs. Therefore, it is inherently attractive to opportunistic rodents. The Zoo has an integrated pest management program to reduce the risk of any zoonotic disease transfer between rodents and the Zoo’s residents. Animal care staff work diligently with the Zoo’s pest management team to reduce and exclude these visiting rodents.
The challenge of controlling the rodents is twofold: rodents are amazingly smart animals that can ‘outwit’ traps, and we refuse to use pesticides in our habitats for the safety of our animals. As much as we admire rodents' cognitive abilities, we would still prefer them not to be in with our animals. Fortunately, Brienne is a large bear with strong instincts to protect her cub, and Andean bears cohabitate with rodents in the wild.
Our animal care team regularly makes changes to the way they manage the animals based on their behavior, their current needs (which may change from day to day or season to season), and any concerns staff may have about their welfare. Altogether, we have a team of expert veterinarians, curators, animal keepers, administrators, nutritionists and scientists providing for our animals. Animal care is the Zoo’s top priority, and we appreciate when visitors and Andean Bear Cub Cam viewers share our passion and concern for our animals’ well-being.