K is for Kermode Spirit Bear Facts, British Columbia, Canada

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.
Kermode Spirit Bear, British Columbia, Canada
Jon Rawlinson, Flickr
  • 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.Kermode Spirit Bear Provincial Symbol of British Columbia, CanadaThe Spirit Bear has been designated official animal of British Columbia.

Sources for Kermode Spirit Bear: BCSpiritBear.com / National Geographic / The Nature ConservancyWikipedia


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.

**A-Z Collection of Cool Animals April Challenge : MASTER LIST**



Jeanne Melanson
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17 thoughts on “K is for Kermode Spirit Bear Facts, British Columbia, Canada”

  1. I grew up in Prince Rupert, British Columbia but never heard of the “Spirit” or “Ghost” Bear. What a fascinating story. I am glad they have a protected area in which to live. I do oil painting and would like to try painting one. We shall see!!! Thanks for your interest in animals.
    Judy Shrader, now living in Oregon.

    • Ooh, I love grizzlies. I’ve seen a few while I was camping in the Canadian Rockies in Montana. (I decided not to camp “right there” after all, and moved downriver some.) lol I hope you see some! I’m not familiar with Bella Coola. Be careful!

  2. Hi. I’m glad to find your wonderful blog through A to Z Challenge.
    I remember watching a TV program about spirit bears last year. I often watch programs featuring bears.
    Bears are fascinating creatures. It is interesting that bears play important roles in human cultures in many places of the world.

    • Hello Romi! I’m so glad you stopped by and that you enjoyed my post. I love watching nature programs and learning new things about animals. It’s my passion. I see you’re doing the A-Z Challenge too. I’ll go visit your blog tonight and see what you have to say about “L is for Light.” Take care! 🙂

  3. Very interesting, I’ve never heard of that type of bear before, on first glance at the picture thought it was a Polar Bear. Took me forever to get to your comment box, there’s so much between it and the end of your blog post, I almost gave up. Just thought I’d mention it, as I wonder if it is causes you to miss comments from folks who have less persistence?

  4. So beautiful! I never heard of the Spirit Bear … Well, I’ve heard of Spirit Bears as far as Native American folklore and by that I mean the bear fetish like you have pictured here. Great video of the Kermode. And I love the photo: so gorgeous.
    Michele at Angels Bark

  5. What a cool, interesting bear – I’d never even heard of this one! I love the whole idea of spirit animals, so this one really got my interest. Leave it to you to find the most unique, interesting animals out there – I love it! 🙂


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