The Spirit Bear, also sometimes referred to as the Kermode Bear, is a subspecies of the North American Black bear whose scientific name is ursus americanus kermodei. However, the Spirit Bear is one of every ten bears that is born white or cream colored with some having orange or yellow on their backs. Why are Spirit Bears born white? While more research is needed, some believe the white color comes from a single hair color gene. The Spirit Bears are not albino or related to polar bears, which are also white.
The bears are often called Kermode after Frances Kermode, who researched the species. It is believed the term Spirit Bear came from the First Nations tradition in which white bears are believe to be honored and protected.
The Spirit Bears can only be found living along the Pacific coast of Canada in British Columbia. There have been some white bears spotted in other areas of North America, but they are not of the same subspecies. Spirit Bears eat berries, plants, and salmon. They hibernate during the winter, often in cavities of huge trees to protect them from the cold and winter storms. During hibernation, the Spirit Bear digests its stored body fat for nutrition. Amazingly enough, many Spirit Bears are born in the winter while their mothers are in hibernation. The newborn Spirit Bears are blind and defenseless, so they remain in the den until the mother awakes in the spring.
Scientists believe that by providing the Spirit Bear with a suitable habitat, they can also protect other species such as salmon, birds, insects, wolves, and deer. This is what scientists refer to as an "umbrella species."
However, much of the Spirit Bears habitat in British Columbia has been taken over by the logging industry. Areas such as Gribbell, Pooley, Princess Royal, and Roderick have been logged and this logging has caused their habitat to diminish.
It was announced in 2006 that the premier of British Columbia planned to make the Spirit Bear the official animal of the province.