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Spirit Bear Rarer Than Ever (10) More files...
You would be forgiven if you thought you saw a polar bear in British Columbia's temperate rainforest. That white-furred creature, a Spirit or Kermode Bear, is actually a rare white-phase of a black bear that is revered by the people of the Kitasoo/Xai'xais and Gitga'at First Nations.

In 2001 researchers identified the gene responsible for the Spirit bear’s white coat. It’s the same genetic quirk that causes red hair in humans, and auburn fur in dogs and mice. Spirit bears can be born to parents that may or may not have white fur themselves. For example, a mama and papa black bear each carrying one copy of the recessive gene can produce a white-furred baby.

An Indigenous-led study published on Sunday in Ecological Solutions and Evidence suggests that the gene that turns the coat of these Spirit bears ghostly white is rarer than previously estimated, and that their habitat in the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada is not yet adequately protected. With a robust ecotoursim economy centered around the Spirit bears it is clear that the animals' survival requires more intact land for these rare and beautiful creatures.
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) eating Oregon Crab Apple (Malus diversifolia), Princess Royal Island, Great Bear Rainforest, Canada  -  Sylvain Cordier/ Biosphoto
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00489716 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) eating Oregon Crab Apple (Malus diversifolia), Princess Royal Island, Great Bear Rainforest, Canada© Sylvain Cordier/ Biosphoto
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada  -  Eric Baccega/ npl
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00430961 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada© Eric Baccega/ npl
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, male feeding Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada  -  Matthias Breiter
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00477929 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, male feeding Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada© Matthias Breiter
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), mother with her white morph cub called spirit bear, Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada  -  Eric Baccega/ npl
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00430958 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), mother with her white morph cub called spirit bear, Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada© Eric Baccega/ npl
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear in tree Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada  -  Eric Baccega/ npl
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00430966 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear in tree Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada© Eric Baccega/ npl
American Black Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) 'Spirit Bear' white morph, adult, fishing for salmon at edge of river in temperate coastal rainforest, Great Bear Rainforest, Gribbell Island, British C...  -  Ignacio Yufera/ FLPA
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80152265 American Black Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) 'Spirit Bear' white morph, adult, fishing for salmon at edge of river in temperate coastal rainforest, Great Bear Rainforest, Gribbell Island, British C...© Ignacio Yufera / FLPA
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, cubs looking for mussels on the shores of Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada  -  Eric Baccega/ npl
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00430957 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, cubs looking for mussels on the shores of Princess Royal Island, British Columbia, Canada© Eric Baccega/ npl
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) lying in wet temperate forest, Princess Royal Island, Great Bear Rainforest, Canada  -  Fabrice Simon/ Biosphoto
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00490089 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) lying in wet temperate forest, Princess Royal Island, Great Bear Rainforest, Canada© Fabrice Simon/ Biosphoto
American Black Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) 'Spirit Bear' white morph, adult, fishing for salmon at river in temperate coastal rainforest, Great Bear Rainforest, Gribbell Island, British Columbia,...  -  Ignacio Yufera/ FLPA
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80152264 American Black Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) 'Spirit Bear' white morph, adult, fishing for salmon at river in temperate coastal rainforest, Great Bear Rainforest, Gribbell Island, British Columbia,...© Ignacio Yufera / FLPA
Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, male, Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada  -  Matthias Breiter
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00477910 Kermode Bear (Ursus americanus kermodei), white morph called spirit bear, male, Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada© Matthias Breiter
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