Kermode bear

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Kermode bear
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Ursidae
Genus: Ursus
Species: U. americanus
Subspecies: U. a. kermodei
Trinomial name
Ursus americanus kermodei
Hornaday, 1905

The Kermode bear /ˈkɜːrˌmdi/ (Ursus americanus kermodei), also known as the "spirit bear" (particularly in British Columbia), is a subspecies of the American black bear living in the Central and North Coast regions of British Columbia, Canada.[1] It is the official provincial mammal of British Columbia.[2] It is noted for about 110 of their population having white or cream-colored coats. This color is due to a double recessive gene unique in the subspecies. They are not albinos[1] and not any more related to polar bears or the "blonde" brown bears of Alaska's "ABC Islands" than other members of their species. Sometimes, a black mother can have a white cub.


Spirit bears hold a prominent place in the oral traditions of the indigenous peoples of the area. They have also been featured in a National Geographic documentary.[3] 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.[4]

The Kermode bear was named after Francis Kermode, former director of the Royal B.C. Museum,[1] who researched the subspecies and was a colleague of William Hornaday, the zoologist who described it.[5][6] A common mispronunciation 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", which is the usual way to pronounce "Kermode bear".[7]Although in the Isle of Man the name is pronounced Ker-MODE.


A Kermode bear from the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

The U. a. 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 peoples as moksgm'ol. In the February 2006 Speech from the Throne by the Government of British Columbia, the Lieutenant Governor announced the government's intention to designate the Kermode or spirit bear as British Columbia's official animal. It was adopted as such in April of that year.[8] 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 (5' 11") tall.

Fewer than 400 Kermode bears are estimated to exist in the coast area that stretches from Southeast Alaska southwards to the northern tip of Vancouver Island;[9] about 120 inhabit the large Princess and Prince Royal Island.[9] The largest concentration of the white bears inhabits 80-square-mile Gribbell Island, in the territory of the Gitga’at.[10]

The bear's habitat is potentially under threat from the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, whose planned route passes near the Great Bear Rainforest.[11][12] Native groups including the Gitga'at have opposed the pipeline.[13]

Kermode bears in captivity[edit]

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 reccesive gene from a subspecies bear in captivity.[14] The yearling cub was found abandoned in northwestern British Columbia on the side of Terrace Mountain near 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.[15] The park has plans to create a custom home for the bear, which has escaped from its temporary enclosure once already.[16] 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.[17] Provincial government wildlife officials have maintained its position against attempting a long-distance relocation, stating that the risks outweigh the possible benefits, and as of October 2015, the bear remained in captivity.[18]


  1. ^ a b c "Spirit Bear Facts". Province of British Columbia. Retrieved 2009-12-03. 
  2. ^ "Symbols of British Columbia". Office of Protocol. Government of British Columbia. 
  3. ^ Last Stand of the Great Bear. National Geographic. 2006. ISBN 0-7922-4110-X. 
  4. ^ Bourton, Jody (November 6, 2009). "Spirit bears become 'invisible'". BBC Earth News. 
  5. ^ Steve Warmack. "The Kermode Bear". Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  6. ^ "Kermode Bear: Icon for an Engangered Ecosystem" from National Wildlife Magazine 1/15/2010
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Symbols of British Columbia". Office of Protocol. Government of British Columbia. 
  9. ^ a b "The Pacific Coast of BC is home to the world's only white coloured Black Bears". Spirit Bear Adventure LTD. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 
  10. ^ Shoumatoff, Alex This Rare, White Bear May Be the Key to Saving a Canadian Rainforest Smithsonian Magazine. August 31, 2015
  11. ^ Kaufman, Rachel (October 7, 2010). "Photos: Canadian Rain Forest Edges Oil Pipeline Path". National Geographic News. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  12. ^ Save, Planet (November 4, 2011). "Canada's 'Spirit Bears' Threatened by Proposed Oil Pipeline". IBTimes UK - Green Energy. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  13. ^ Associated Press, via Zaman (November 28, 2010). "Rare Spirit Bear Endangered in Canada". Zaman Amerika. Retrieved 27 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Orphaned B.C. kermode bear becomes rare attraction at Kamloops wildlife park". Canadian Press. October 30, 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2012. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Fate of Clover the ‘spirit bear' from B.C. draws international interest". The Globe and Mail (Toronto). 8 October 2012. 

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