The Kermode Spirit Bear is a white variant of the North American black bear, prominently found on coastal islands in British Columbia, and the Great Bear Rainforest, which runs 250 miles down along Canada’s western coast of B.C. This area is also home to wolves, wolverines, and black bears.
Kermode Spirit Bear Facts
- The Kermode bear is revered by local Native American culture. It are referred to as the spirit bear or ghost bear and are a symbol of peace and harmony. It is the designated official animal of British Columbia.
- The Kermode Spirit Bear is not albino, nor is it related to the Polar Bear. The nose, eyes, lips, and paws are dark colored. The white color is the result of a union of two black bears who carry a recessive gene called MC1R. (This is the same gene associated with red hair and fair skin in humans.) To be born white, a bear must inherit the mutation from both parents.
- The Kermode Bear phenomenon only happens in one of every 40 to 1oo black bears. Further north, the occurrence is only one in three.
- Spirit Bears mate during the summer months. The females prepare suitable dens in the fall to get ready for hibernation and the birth to their cubs. The dens are usually a hollowed out tree trunk, or any cave-like structure. The dens are lined with dried grass, leaves, and twigs for comfort and insulation.
- During the hibernation period, which lasts until spring or early summer, the bear’s body functions slow down, and it survives on accumulated fat stored throughout the year. It is during hibernation that the females give birth to their cubs, with an average litter of 2 cubs. Newborns weigh up to a pound each.
- Males grow up to be about 250 to 500 pounds (115 to 225 kg), where females weigh between 125 to 175 pounds (57 to 80 kg).
- Spirit Bears are on average 5 to 6 feet (150 to 183 cm) tall.
- The lifespan of the Kermode Spirit Bear is 20 to 25 years in the wild.
- The major threat to this species is loss of pristine habitat as a result of logging, over-fishing their precious salmon, and pollution.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 400 Kermode Spirit Bears in the coast area that stretches from Southeast Alaska southwards to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.The Spirit Bear has been designated official animal of British Columbia.
For an interesting read, “Touching Spirit Bear” by Ben Mikaelsen tells a story about a troubled youth who encounters a spirit bear in an island forest, and the consequences of this meeting. The book explores the folklore and beliefs of Native American people. Look through the carousel for more choice reads.