One of B.C.’s natural
treasures is the Spirit Bear. This rare bear lives on B.C.’s
Pacific coast rainforest archipelago: on The Princess Royal
Island and on the mainland around Bella Bella, which is near
What is a Spirit bear,
sometimes called “ghost” or “white” bear? It is a Kermode
bear, a Canadian subspecies of the North American black bear,
and only about 10% of Kermode bears are white. These white
bears are not albinos. They have white or cream-coloured
coats, and some have orange or yellow colorations on their
However, like the black
bears, the white ones have dark footpads, nose and eyes. The
Kermode bear was named in 1928 after Frank Kermode, former
director of the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria. The term
“Spirit Bear” is also possibly attributed to a First Nations'
Tradition which held that the white bears were to be revered
Scientists speculate that
a double-recessive gene for coat colour may be responsible,
but admit that more research is required.
The Spirit Bear is what
scientists call an “umbrella species.” That means that if a
large enough suitable habitat can be protected for the spirit
bear, many other species that rely on the same ecosystem will
also be protected under this “umbrella.”
The Spirit Bears thrive in
their lush rainforest, bear-heaven among the cathedral groves
of giant Sitka spruce. Spirit bears are omnivores who enjoy
berries, nuts, fruits, roots, grasses, insects, deer and moose
fawns, carrion and spawning salmon.
The hibernating female
finds a cozy winter home in the hollow trunk of a giant Sitka
where she will rest, gradually digest her stored body fat, and
then deliver her tiny babies during the winter.
The helpless newborn bears
weigh only about ½ a pound (227 gm), but grow up to weigh
between 150-300 pounds (68 – 130 kg) and are able to run up to
55 km per hour. The babies and mother bear stay warm and safe
in their tree-trunk house until spring when the mother wakes
up and takes her family out into the spring sunshine.
The young bears stay with
their mother for up to a year-and-a-half, learn survival
tricks and then move on to live their normal 25-year life-span
ranging the lush rainforest. ‘
See pictures of the
Spirit Bear and its inland temperate rainforest.
What appears to be an
idyllic life is much endangered by some habits of the humans
who share the province with them. Logging practices have
scarred the landscape and damaged their environment.
On Feb. 7, 2006, B.C.’s
government unveiled an agreement to preserve 1.8 million
hectares of land along B.C.’s Central and North Coast,
including the Great Bear Rainforest, one of the largest intact
temperate rainforests in the world (6.4 million hectares).
This agreement involves: government, the forest industry,
First Nations, and environmentalists.
Logging practices will be
changed to protect old-growth forests, limit logging, protect
the home of the Kermode or “Spirit” bear, and provide a
land-use plan to include eco-tourism.
The Spirit Bear is to
become B.C.’s Provincial Animal Symbol along with the Dogwood,
the Steller’s Jay, and the Western Red Cedar, and the Jade gem
Hopefully, this amazing
part of our beautiful B.C. coast will be saved for all to
appreciate now and for generations to come.
Campaign to Save the Great
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