White Kermode bears, also known as spirit bears, are a subspecies of the North American black bear with a rare gene that causes their fur to be white.
This subspecies can only be found in a small area of British Columbia, Canada. A recessive gene causes their white coloration, and they can account for up to 20% of the Kermode bear population on certain islands in British Columbia.
Jenny Stevens, a famous wildlife photographer, got the golden chance to take shots of one of the Kermode bears after missing the opportunity to do so for years. She had been waiting for this moment for so long to take these beautiful photographs of the majestic animal.
After getting the chance to visit the small area in British Columbia, Jenny knew how to take advantage. She went to a spot where she knew kermode bears came down to hunt salmon before going into hibernation.
She waited there patiently for the special animal to come so that she could take these extraordinary photos.
“The spirit bears population numbers no more than 400 individuals.” Thus, seeing them in action was a rare treat.
Unlike albinos, these bears have pigmentation in their eyes and skin. A single mutant gene that causes this unusual coloration also prevents melanin production. If both parents have this recessive gene, two black Kermode bears can reproduce and have a white Kermode bear.
The spirit bear (white kermode) is more likely to mate with another spirit bear, as is the case with black kermode bears. This phenomenon is known as positive assortative mating.
Due to the spirit bear’s camouflaged appearance in the sunlight, salmons have a hard time avoiding them as compared to black bears. According to recent studies, white bears are comparatively 35% more successful than black kermode bears at catching salmon in daylight.
Spirit bears are classic omnivores and can eat a wide variety of foods when salmon isn’t available.
Fortunately, the subspecies are not on the verge of extinction. People made a combined effort to protect them as the bears are prominent in the traditions of local people.
For instance, trophy hunting of all bears in the Great Bear Rainforest has been banned. In addition to that, the First Nations won a case against the government that resulted in shutting down an oil pipeline that might have endangered the bears’ habitat.