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White-furred Spirit Bears: A Canadian Rarity

Spirit bears -- little known, but fascinating to see. In a report aired Thursday (Nov. 25) by ABC News, many viewers probably got their first glimpse of Kermode bears, a tiny subspecies of black bears that displays white or cream-colored fur. (If you watch the clip, we apologize for the unavoidable commercial intro.)

The bears' range is limited to Canada, within a swath of the British Columbia coastline known as the Great Bear Rainforest, an area stretching north of Vancouver Island to the southernmost tip of Alaska. A few hundred Kermode bears are believed to exist.

Though it's unlikely you will ever cross paths with a spirit bear, it's useful to recall that backcountry visitation can potentially impact the life of any bear. To avoid disrupting a bear's natural foraging instincts, the wise wilderness visitor ensures that human food is unattainable to bears at all times.

How to do so? Use approved, bear-resistant food containers when exploring wilderness lands. Human food seems to have an intoxicating effect on bears, and bears that get a taste of an energy bar or trail mix (typically due to careless food-storage efforts of campers or backpackers) are abruptly transformed into human-food addicts. A bear jacked up on jerky can become very determined and persistent to acquire more of it.

This altered instinct typically causes bears to behave more aggressively around humans, causing wildlife managers to trap and relocate such bears. If that's not possible, the bears may be killed, all in the name of preventing unsafe bear-human encounters. All of this can be avoided if humans just store food correctly. Learn more about the topic in the REI Expert Advice articles Reasons for Using Bear-Resistant Canisters and Food Handling/Storage Strategies.

Meanwhile, has anyone seen a Kermode (spirit) bear in person?

Posted on at 5:28 PM

Tagged: Great Bear Rainforest, Kermode bears, bear canisters, black bears, food storage, spirit bears and white bears

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My Father was archery hunting this summer around Oregon's Santiam Pass when he spotted a young blond black bear. Thought it was someone's golden retriever at first. Thanks for the article!

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