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Ursus Americanus Kermodei



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picture by Ron Thiele

According to a First Nations legend, the Raven changed the earth from white snow to green forest.
But he wanted a reminder of how the world once was in the Ice age, when glaciers and cold blanketed the planet so he made every tenth bear white.
He declared they would forever live in peace and harmony.

Kermode bears, otherwise known as Spirit Bears or Ghost Bears, do exist, however. The scientific explanation for the white Kermode bear's coloring is a little different - two black bears with recessive white genes pass them to their offspring. They are not albino, and they are not related to polar bears.

The bears are rare, elusive and unique to the rainforests of northern British Columbia and range from the coast from Prince Rupert to Princess Royal Island. Inland, the Kermode Bear ranges all the way to Hazelton, BC. Biologists estimate a population of 1,200 Kermode bears, of which less than 200 are white phased. While the white bears are protected by law, the other ninety percent...the ones that carry the gene but don't show the coloration...are fair game. The Kermode bear faces extinction due to habitat loss as a result of logging and mismanagement; restricted range; low and declining population numbers and hybridization with mainland subspecies of black bear which do not carry the unique genetics that produce the rare white "spirit" bear.