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About Spirit Bears

The Spirit bear or Kermode bear is thought by scientists to be a genetic variation of the black bear that roams throughout British Columbia. They believe that the presence of a single recessive gene in these creatures is responsible for the white coat that as many as one in ten of these bears is born with and retain throughout their lives. While the Kermode bear has been sighted in northeastern British Columbia and as far east in North America as Minnesota, it lives in the greatest numbers on the islands off the north-central coast of British Columbia. White coat Kermode bears are found most frequently on Gribbell Island and Princess Royal Island, situated between the coastal mainland and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

Scientists believe there is such a high concentration of the white coat Kermode bears on these islands because they are geographically isolated from other black bear populations.Scientists estimate there are 1,200 black and white Kermode bears in the coast area that stretches from around the northern tip of Vancouver Island northwards to the Alaska panhandle. On Gribbell Island, up to 30 per cent of the bears can be white while on the larger Princess Royal Island, about 10 per cent have the white coat.

The Kermode white bear fascinates geneticists and wilderness lovers. Scientists, keen to isolate the gene that causes the white coat, are conducting DNA analysis on the bear so that they can determine how common it is elsewhere on the continent. They also want to determine whether the Kermode white bear is a race or simply the product of a concentration of a gene in a given area. Researchers have been analyzing fur samples from "rubbing" trees used by the bears, and have set out snares across trails to capture hairs to examine for genetic information. Klemtu Tourism offers opportunities to view and learn about the Kermode bears, as well as Grizzly bears and other fascinating wildlife, on our Spirit Bear Quest.

Spirit Bear

Spirit Bear

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