Kermode bears, also known as spirit bears, are black bears with white coats. They have been spotted in the coastal regions of British Columbia and Alaska. The Kermode bear is a genetic variant of the North American black bear (Ursus americanus) and exists only among a population of these animals that live on the Central Coast of British Columbia.
Spirit Bears look like they are straight out of a fairy tale or fantasy movie! According to some people, such as First Nations aboriginal people who live in such regions, this special trait has made them more than just animals; they are viewed as spiritual beings by these people.
Let’s watch a quick video about the salmon-fishing spirit bear first, and then dive straight into our top ten facts!
Fact 1: Spirit Bears Are Not Albino
Albino black bears do exist, but they are extremely rare.
Spirit bears, however, are not albinos; they are a different variant of the North American black bear (Ursus americanus) that has melanin in its fur. Melanin is an important pigment found in humans and almost all mammals that is responsible for skin coloration.
However, most people with dark skin have more melanin than people with light skin. There is no way to determine if a black bear will become a spirit bear based on its appearance or parents’ genetic make-up. It seems to be purely random, though some experts speculate female Kermode mothers somehow play a role in whether their cubs turn out to be white or black.
Fact 2: Kermode bears are a sub-species of black bears
Kermode bears are actually a sub-species of black bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) that is unique to North America’s coastal temperate rain forests.
However, the term “spirit bear” has become so popular in tourism marketing campaigns, many people now mistakenly believe them to be an entirely separate species than standard black bears. They are not!
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), spirit bears are under threat due to climate change and human activity. The Kermode bear’s white fur could also put it at risk because hunters sometimes target them for their pelt rather than just killing them as they would normally do with a black bear.
Fact 3: Spirit Bears Have Black Skin!
A misconception surrounding the spirit bear is that they have white fur and black skin.
In fact, their fur is actually black in color, but it has a unique white appearance due to the presence of what is called a “recessive gene”. White patches on its coat can vary from minimal to extensive or even cover its entire body. However, with rare exceptions, this white fur is always found on at least some parts of its body such as the chest and belly area.
Fact 4: There might only be 500 Spirit Bears in the World
You can only find spirit bears in the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada, and you’d have to look pretty hard as there are at most only 500 white spirit bears. They’re not necessarily under threat, as they are really black bears with a recessive gene, but the white bear is very rare.
The real threat now seems to be humans and climate change which has reduced the numbers of their prey items such as salmon.
Fact 5: Spirit Bears Make Poor Pets
Kermode bears are considered one of the most intelligent types of North American black bear. They are known for being very cute and cuddly, which makes some people think they’d make good pets.
However, this is not the case because you cannot domesticate these bears due to their strong-willed independence.
A Kermode bear will likely wander off on you before too long if it can escape your home!
Fact 6: White Bears Taste Like Normal Black Bear Meat!
Black bears taste just like normal brown bears according to most people who have tried both and know what they’re talking about. It is difficult to tell the difference between black bear meat and white bear meat unless you are told otherwise. Thus, this means that spirit bears are not actually a separate sub-species of black bears despite their genetic mutation because they taste just like regular bears.
Fact 7: They’re called moskgm’ol
The First Nations called the Spirit Bear moskgm’ol, which simply means ‘White Bear’. They viewed the bear as sacred!
Fact 8: They eat more than just salmon!
There’s Pacific Salmon throughout the Great Bear Rainforest, and when they return from the ocean in autumn, the Spirit Bears eat them before hibernating. Otherwise, they eat fruit, nuts, grasses, roots, plants, birds – whatever they can find, to be honest!