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Kermode Spirit Bear

Kermode Spirit bear
  • The kermode bear is a unique subspecies of the American Black Bear. Approximately 10 percent of their population has completely white colored fur. Their color is believed to be caused by a recessive gene trait. Since they are white they stand out against the dark green forest they inhabit. The kermode bear is named after Frances Kermode of the Royal British Columbia Museum.
  • Due to their special color and rarity, the kermode bear is revered by local Native American culture. They are referred to as the spirit bear or ghost bear. According to Native American legend, the spirit bear is a reminder of times past, specifically the white color of ice and snow. The master of the universe created one white bear for every ten black bears as a reminder of the hardships during the ice age. During this period glaciers and cold blanketed the planet. The spirit bear also symbolizes peace and harmony.

  • The spirit bear is recognized as a prominent Native American symbol and is designated as the official animal of British Columbia.

  • Contrary to popular belief spirit bears are not albino. Their nose, eyes, lips, and paws are dark colored. Nor are they related to the polar bear.

  • Kermode bears are found on coastal islands in British Columbia, Canada. The territories with the highest concentration of white colored bears are on Princess Royal Island and Gribbell Island.

  • Their habitat includes dense forests with an abundance of plants, streams, fish, and animals. They eat all kind of vegetation, fruits, bulbs, insects, rodents, nuts, and salmon. Due to their abundant food supply it is easy for them to bulk up for the harsh winters.

  • Kermode bears mate during the summer months. When fall arrives the mother bear finds a suitable place to den such as a hollow tree trunk, rock shelter, or hillside dugout. They line their dens with dried grass, leaves, and twigs for comfort and insulation.

  • During hibernation they enter a quasi sleep like state to conserve energy during the cold winter. Functions of the body slow down and stored fat that the bear has accumulated throughout the year is utilized. Pregnant females give birth in their den while in hibernation. Hibernation lasts until spring or early summer depending on weather conditions.

  • Average litter size is 2, although 1 to 3 cubs is possible. Newborn cubs weigh up to a pound.

  • Lifespan: 20 to 25 years in the wild.

  • Weight: about 250 to 300 pounds for males. Females weigh about 125 to 175 pounds. Length is approximately 5 to 6 feet.

  • The population of the kermode bear is estimated to be under 1300.

  • Due to the remote and unspoiled territories that these bears live in, they are neither accustomed nor fearful of man.

  • The kermode bear is brought to life in the popular novel "Touching Spirit Bear" by Ben Mikaelsen. A troubled youth comes to terms with himself after encountering a spirit bear in an island forest. The book explores the folklore and beliefs of Native American people.
  • The major threat to this species is loss of pristine habitat from ongoing logging operations. Global warming is a long term threat that alters their balanced ecosystem. Reduction of salmon supplies by man made activities (e.g.: over fishing, pollution, etc.) also threaten the kermode spirit bear.


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