Jenny Stevens, a wildlife photographer, learned about the spirit bear, also known as the Kermode bear. But she wouldn’t get an opportunity to take pictures of this unusual species until a few years later. Although black bears make up the majority of Kermode bears, there is a small group of white bears known as spirit bears. It’s interesting to note that this subspecies of American black bear is unique to a certain region of British Columbia, Canada. They can make up 20% of the Kermode bear population on some islands in British Columbia thanks to a recessive gene that gives them their white color.
During a tour into the Great Bear Rainforest with a group of photographers, Stevens captured her images of a mother and cub. The crew made a long trip to a location where they knew Kermode bears would be fishing for salmon after anchoring off Gribbell Island. Stevens only had to wait for the particular animal to show up while keeping an eye out.
It was a rare honor to witness one of the less than 400 spirit bears that reside in the coastal region in action. Since these bears have colored skin and eyes, Stevens is cautious to point out that they are not albinos. They are white because of a gene abnormality that prevents melanin from being produced. If both parents carry this recessive trait, two black Kermode bears can conceive and produce a white Kermode bear. It’s interesting to note that research has revealed that white bears and black Kermode bears are more inclined to mate. Positive assortative mating is the term used to describe this phenomenon.
Spirit bears have a significant advantage when it comes to hunting because of their looks. Spirit bears are 35% more successful in catching salmon when they hunt during the day, according to studies. The salmon appear to have an easier difficulty dodging the large black bears, whilst the spirit bears are less noticeable due to their white coats.
Fortunately, there is no threat to the extinction of the subspecies. Since spirit bears in particular play a significant role in Indigenous people’s oral traditions, there has been a determined effort made to preserve them. The Great Bear Rainforest was off-limits to all bear trophy hunting by the coastal First Nations, the First Nations successfully sued the government in order to stop an oil pipeline that would have imperiled the habitat of bears.
The Kermode bear is still a problem as salmon numbers decrease as a result of climate change and overfishing. Fortunately, Stevens’ magnificent images serve as a constant reminder that while we fight for the environment, we also fight for unique animals like the spirit bear.
Who knows why they are so few and in such a small part of the planet, as Stevens tells us. Mother Nature has a magical quality.
The spirit bear, also known as the Kermode bear, is a rare species that can only be found in a particular region of British Columbia.
While Kermode bears are typically black, some bears have a genetic abnormality that makes them white.
These skilled hunters are not albinos because they have pigment in their skin and eyes.
Jenny Stevens: Website