The Kermode bears are also known as ‘the spirit bears’ or ‘ghost bears ‘, because of their rarity and only a small number of them have white coats. These bears also have a unique genetic makeup. It’s not a polar bear or an albino bear, as its appearance might suggest, but a rare subspecies of black bear that gets this beautiful white fur from a double-recessive gene.
The Kermode bears ( Ursus americanus kermodei ) are a subspecies of the American black bears. The scientists say that Kermode bears evolved over the last 10,000 years from isolated population of black bears that became isolated hundreds of thousands years ago.
95 % of the Kermode bears’ food is made up of salmon which is abundant on its habitat. Salmon is highly important when it comes to their fattening up for hibernation. They also feed on nuts, green plants, berries and insects.
This new green world is a large habitat that spirit bears exist in, together with their black bear family. Their territory is about 7.3 million hectares and includes the islands and parts of the mainland British Columbian coast. These bears share their habitat with old growth forests, salmon, foxes, marine-diet wolves, bald eagles and many other animals.
The lighter color of these bears is less visible to fish than darker black bears, making them 30% more efficient at capturing salmon. A young spirit bear weighs only half a pound when born but can grow up to even 300 pounds as an adult, with the males being larger. The spirit bears live up to 25 years. They grow up to a height of between 4 and 6 feet.
Because these bears have remained in isolated areas for thousands of years, they are reported to be gentle toward people, but as with approaching any animal, it is not good idea that you disturb these bears, especially mother bears with cubs. Many spirit bears are seen roaming around alone. It is good to make a noise such as whistling or speaking when walking in the forests, to warn them that you are there. If you do see them, they might stand on their back feet, bare their teeth and start growling. They usually don’t attack unless they think that you are dangerous.
Just like other black bears species, Kermode bears are really slow at reproducing. They also hibernate in hollowed-out old trees from November to March. The mother bear gives birth to 1-4 cubs while still in hibernation. They weigh about a half of a pound at birth and stay with their mother for about 2 years.
As a result of mismanagement, logging, habitat loss and hybridization with the mainland black bears that do not carry the same unique gene, the Kermode bears are facing eventual extinction.
Of an estimated 1,100 Kermode bears, just about 200 are white. Despite of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement written in 2006 by the government of British Columbia in trying to limit logging within their habitat, the Kermode bears still have no legal protection as their habitat continues to disappear.