Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Spirit Bear

A few years ago, I had written this article and posted it on another website. I have updated it to reflect today's statistics on the Spirit Bear, which is a rare species of bear that lives on Canada's west coast. It is a real treasure to both me and my country. I retain copyright to this article.

The legend of the Gitg'at and Kitasoo Native Peoples tells that when the glaciers of the ice age receded, Raven made everything green. He decided to make one in ten black bears white, to remind him of the time when the world was white with ice and snow. Raven set aside an island paradise for these bears - now known as Princess Royal Island. According to the legend, these bears will never leave the island. It was a remote paradise where the bears were to live in peace forever.

Princess Royal Island is covered with pristine rainforest valleys that are blanketed with lush foliage. Hemlock, cedar and 800-year-old Sitka spruce stand tall against the sky. Packs of rare black wolves roam freely and hunt the abundant deer population of the island. Porpoises, elephant seals and Orca whales make the island's channels and coves their home at certain times of the year. It is virtually the paradise that Raven intended it to be. However, "peace forever" is no longer guaranteed. British Columbia's massive logging industry is endangering the "Spirit Bear."

The Kermode Bear

The Spirit Bear is the Kermode bear (Ursa Americanus Kermodie.) It lives in British Columbia's rainforest. This bear is not a cousin of the polar bear, or an albino. It is a sub-species of the black bear. Both parents must have a recessive gene to make the black bear white. One family can consist of both black and white bears.

When it is born, the Kermode bear weights about 1/2 lb. A full grown adult weights up to 300. As with all species, mothers are very protective of their young. They learn to survive by watching her hunt. They stay with her from birth (Jan) until the salmon begin to run in the fall. Kermodes are gentle animals. They will not attack humans unless their cubs are in danger, or they are dying of starvation.


The territory of the Kermode is about 7.2 million hectares. They exist in the territory from Princess Royal Island to Prince Rupert Island, Terrace and East Hazelton. Most of the world's Kermode bears are found on Princess Royal Island. The island is also home to salmon, bald eagles, foxes and other animals.

The habitat of the Kermode is in grave danger. Logging companies have set their sights on the lush rainforests of the region. These areas are quickly disappearing. If the logging companies aren't stopped, the rainforests will be gone. If the Kermodes habitat disappears, the "Spirit Bear" will become extinct

The Kermode bear survived the ice age, but today there are less than 400 left in the world. This sub-species of the black bear is clearly in danger of extinction. The three logging giants responsible for 50% of Canada's rainforest logging are destroying the habitat that is critical for the Kermode's survival. In recent years, they have been clear-cutting (the felling and removal of ALL trees from a tract of forest) one acre of ancient forest every 66 seconds. Every remote, untouched, unprotected watershed in the Great Bear forest had been slated for logging within ten years. Clear-cutting causes mudslides, and erosion. It not only destroys the habitat of the Kermode, but also that of wolves, eagles and other species. The landscape left behind when the logging companies move out is unable to sustain any type of wildlife.

The Kermode bear is known to the Tsimshian People as "Moksgmol" - the spirit of the ancient rainforest. Thus the name, "Spirit Bear."

The north western rainforest of British Columbia is the only place on Earth where the Kermodes live.

Environmentalists want a large natural reserve of 150 islands set aside for a wildlife preserve. All logging operations would be prohibited.

The Kermode bear was first introduced to the scientific world by Dr. William Hornaday of the New York Zoo in 1905. He thought these bears were a separate species and named them "Kermode" after Canadian Francis Kermode, the director of the British Columbia Museum of Natural History.

Spirit Bears are protected by law. The black bears that carry the recessive gene, but do not have the coloration of the Kermodes are not.

The Kermode bear's fur protects it and keeps it warm and dry. It is made up of two kinds of hair. These bears have brown eyes and beige snouts. The claws are white and non-retractable. Their coats are the color of rich cream. Kermode bears are omnivorous (eat both meat and plants.) Like other bears, they love honey and will rob a bee's nest to get it. They also eat mice, grasshoppers, ants, roots, grass, berries, nuts, squirrels, salmon and other fish. They keep cool in summer by swimming and drinking huge amounts of water.

Kermodes snouts are short. Their sense of smell is sensitive, as is their sense of hearing. Their eyesight is poor and they are believed to be color blind.

Kermode bears are strong and can easily protect themselves for other animals. They try to avoid lynx, grizzlies and cougars, as well as humans. Their #1 enemy is man.

Quote from the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition website:

Due to the spirit bear’s color, it has the ability to catch more salmon. The more salmon it catches means more rotting fish carcasses deposited on the forest floor. This cycle provides the needed nutrients for the trees to grow and in turn, sustains one of the largest land carbon sinks in the world.

If you wish to learn more about the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, you can find it


smilnsigh said...

Wow!!! I finally realized that you have this blog too!!!! I will be back!!


Mary said...


Glad that you enjoyed your visit. I'm always happy to see you.


Marcel said...

1st thanks for the kind words about my home that you posted on my blog. 2nd thanks for the well written article on the spirit bear. Protecting these bears needs to be a priority over timber extraction. We humans need resources like wood, but we need to also be better stewards of the land. We need to remember that generations that follow us depend on our action to not only insure future resources but to also protect wildlife and wildlands.

Mary said...


Thanks for your nice comments on the Spirit Bear post. These bears are very special and I hate the thought that one day they may be extinct.

In my opinion, man is his own worst enemy. We deplete our natural resources and our wildlife for our own satisfaction.

Thanks for posting.


Marcel said...

I agree with your statement above. I have never seen a spirit bear or its close cousin the glacier bear and more than likely I never will. But, there is something special in just knowing they are on this miraculous planet. We humans need to do what we can to help protect all wildlife; most especially in our own backyards and our own countries.

skywriter said...

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent much time as a young woman in British Columbia, probably one of the most beautiful places on the entire planet. I'd heard the stories of this as I flew fisherman in to pristine lakes on air charters out of Seattle or Portland, but I never knew the full story.

You told it so well. I can almost picture them on the forest floor below, looking up as we soared overhead.

Mary said...


Thank you for your comments and I agree with them. The natural resources and animals on this planet need to be preserved for future generations.

Thanks for visiting.

Mary said...


I admire your profession. British Columbia and Washington must have been awesome from the sky. I have flown over the Rockies and it is awesome. Majestic and beautiful.

If you ever have the chance, take a vacation to Queen Charlotte Islands. They are amazing.

blueblue said...

I was lucky enough to visit British Columbia. Canada is a very lucky place..there are so many beautiful wilderness areas and this is such a great gift.

Thankyou for sharing the story of the Spirit Bear.

Mary said...


British Columbia is magnificient. I have visited the interior a few times in my life, but have never been to the coast. I would love to visit Vancouver Island and the Queen Charlotte Islands. Maybe one day...

Thanks for your nice comments on my post. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit.

Marcel said...

Mary, thanks for all the nice things you have said on my blog. I sure hope that you do get to visit the coast. Vancouver is one of my Favorite cites, and that’s says a lot for a guy who doesn’t like cites. The BC coast of course is much like the area that we live in and even though I grew up in an alomst desert area I’d never leave the coast again. One has to get use to rain, but I found out a person doesn’t melt. Again many thanks for your kind words! Oh and the kind words about my daughter-in-law and grandsons too on their blog!

Mary said...


I love your blog and that house is beautiful. It makes me a little envious. That is the life that I would have enjoyed living. I'm not much of a city girl. I was born and raised on the farm. However, I have always dreamed of living in a remote area.

Thanks for visiting. I enjoy your postings and getting to know you.

Take care and be safe.

smilnsigh said...

Oh how sad. To think that logging has come to this perfect place. And all that will be gone, because of this. Oh sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

And thank you for introducing me to the Spirit Bear. I know of Raven. But not that much more. Now I do.


Mary said...


The Spirit Bear is a marvelous thing. Imagine a black bear bearing a white cub? It would indeed be sad if the logging industry turned this bear's natural habitat into chaos. We have to honor nature or mankind will not survive. I can't remember is you read the post on my writing blog about the bees. Mankind is wrecking havoc on the planet.

Denise said...

Thanks for enlightening me about the spirit bear my friend.

Mary said...


I am glad that you were able to learn about the Spirit Bear. They are awesome animals and it is awesome that the only place in the world that they live is in Canada.