IT’S A sight not many people get to witness; even some who’ve lived in the Northwest all their lives haven’t seen a Kermode bear.
But one lucky man, John Hollaar, managed to get a couple of photos of one alongside the highway while driving here from Smithers April 30.
The Kermode Bear is named after Francis Kermodei, former director of the Royal B.C. Museum., according to Kermode facts on the BC Spirit Bear website.
It’s also been called White Bear or Ghost Bear by local folks; Moksgm’ol by local First Nations; Ursus americanus kermodei by scientists and Spirit Bear is a more recent name.
This rare white bear is actually a black bear.
Scientists are actively studying this rare genetic trait that is possibly due to a recessive gene, or could be due to a result of a concentration of genes in a given area. The Spirit Bear is not an albino.
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.
Many sightings are reported around the Terrace area, making the Spirit Bear its official mascot.
They are often seen as far east as Hazelton, as far north as the Nass Valley up to Cranberry Junction and as far west as Prince Rupert.