|Subspecies:||U. a. kermodei|
|Ursus americanus kermodei
The Kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei, pron. kerr-MO-dee), also known as a "spirit bear" (particularly to the Native tribes of British Columbia), is a subspecies of the North American Black Bear living in the central and north coast of British Columbia, Canada. It is noted for about 1/10 of their population having white or cream-coloured coats. This colour morph is due to recessive alleles common in the population. They are not albinos and not any more related to polar bears or the "blonde" brown bears of Alaska's "ABC Islands" than other members of their species.
The National Geographic estimates the spirit bear population at 400–1,000 individuals, saying that "the spirit bear may owe its survival to the protective traditions of the First Nations, who never hunted the animals or spoke of them to fur trappers".
Because of their spirit-like appearance, spirit bears hold a prominent place in the oral stories of the Canadian First Nations and American Indians of the area. It has also been featured in a National Geographic documentary. Scientists have found that black bears are not as effective at catching fish as white bears, as the white bears are less visible from the perspective of the fish. While at night the two colours of bears have similar success rates at catching fish, such as salmon, during the day the white bears are 30% more effective.
The Kermode bear was named after Francis Kermode, former director of the Royal B.C. Museum, who researched the subspecies and a colleague of William Hornaday, the zoologist who described it. The pronunciation of "Kermode" as "ker-MOH-dee" differs from the actual pronunciation of the Kermode surname, which originates on the Isle of Man and is properly pronounced "KER-mode".
The kermodei subspecies ranges from Princess Royal Island to Prince Rupert, British Columbia on the coast, and inland toward Hazelton, British Columbia. It is known to the Tsimshian people as Moksgm'ol. In the February 2006 Speech from the Throne by the Government of British Columbia, the Lieutenant Governor announced her government's intention to designate the Kermode or spirit bear as British Columbia's official animal. A male Kermode bear can reach 225 kg (500 lb) or more, females are much smaller with a maximum weight of 135 kg (300 lb). Straight up it stands 180 cm (6 ft) tall.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 400 Kermode bears in the coast area that stretches from the Alaska panhandle southwards to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. And approximately 120 Spirit Bears inhabit the large Princess Royal Island.
The bear's habitat is potentially under threat from the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, whose planned route passes near the Great Bear Rainforest. Native groups including the Gitga'at have opposed the pipeline.
Kermode bears in captivity
In October 2012, it was announced that a Kermode bear would be housed at the British Columbia Wildlife Park in Kamloops, BC, believed to be the only such bear in captivity. The yearling cub was found abandoned in northern British Columbia on the side of Terrace mountain in Terrace . After two unsuccessful attempts to rehabilitate and release him back into the wild the cub, now nicknamed 'Clover' by handlers, was sent to the park when conservation officers decided that he was not a candidate for relocation. The park has plans to create a custom home for the bear, which has escaped from its temporary enclosure once already. Animal rights group Lifeforce believes that the bear is healthy enough to survive on its own and that it should be relocated and released back into the wild. The provincial government has maintained its position against attempting a long distance relocation, stating that the risks outweigh the possible benefits, and as of November 2012 the bear remains in captivity.
- "Spirit Bear Facts". Province of British Columbia. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
- "Desktop Wallpaper, August 2011, photograph #5". August 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- Last Stand of the Great Bear. National Geographic. 2006. ISBN 0-7922-4110-X.
- Bourton, Jody (November 6, 2009). "Spirit bears become 'invisible'". BBC Earth News.
- Steve Warmack. "The Kermode Bear". Retrieved 2008-04-18.
- "Kermode Bear: Icon for an Engangered Ecosystem" from National Wildlife Magazine 1/15/2010
- "The Pacific Coast of BC is home to the world's only white coloured Black Bears". Spirit Bear Adventure LTD. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
- Kaufman, Rachel (October 7, 2010). "Photos: Canadian Rain Forest Edges Oil Pipeline Path". National Geographic News. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
- Save, Planet (November 4, 2011). "Canada's 'Spirit Bears' Threatened by Proposed Oil Pipeline". IBTimes UK - Green Energy. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
- Associated Press, via Zaman (November 28, 2010). "Rare Spirit Bear Endangered in Canada". Zaman Amerika. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
- "Orphaned B.C. kermode bear becomes rare attraction at Kamloops wildlife park". Canadian Press. October 30, 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
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