About the Spirit Bear

The Kermode Bear or "Spirit Bear"

The spirit bear is a unique subspecies of the North American black bear in which approximately one in every 10 bears is white or cream-coloured. Some have orange or yellow coloration on their backs. Other Kermodes are all black. The scientific name is Ursus americanus kermodei, named after a naturalist and museum curator named Frances Kermode of the British Columbia Provincial Museum. The term "Spirit Bear" is possibly attributed to First Nations tradition, which held that the white bears were to be revered and protected. Today the Tsimshian people call it "moskgm'ol," which simply means "white bear."

Kermode bears may have evolved on the coast in the last 10,000 years from black bear stock that became isolated from interior black bears more than 300,000 years ago.

The white colour may be due to inheritance of a single gene for hair colour, but other more complex mechanisms may be involved. Further genetic research is needed.

Great  News - Spirit Bear Conservancy Protected!!

In a Feb. 7, 2006 announcement, the Province and First Nations agreed to significantly increase protection on the B.C. north and central coast. This is very good news. This includes tripling the size of the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Sanctuary and creating a new Spirit Bear Conservancy Complex. These are two of the protection initiatives that the Valhalla Wilderness Society (VWS) has spearheaded for nearly 20 years.

Full Press release by

Valhalla Wilderness Society


spirit bear

Where Spirit Bears Live

The spirit bear is a unique creature. It lives only on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, in Canada. The spirit bear is what scientists call an "umbrella species," that is, if a large enough suitable habitat can be protected for the spirit bear, many other species sharing the same ecosystem will also be protected under this umbrella; for example, salmon, birds, wolves, deer, grizzly bears, insects and many others.

Rarely, a white bear is reported from other black bear populations elsewhere in North America but these are from different subspecies.

North America from space

Much of the spirit bear's historic territory is already logged, from River's Inlet at the south end of its range, to the Nass Valley in the north, and east up the Skeena River as far as Hazelton. On the mid-coast, large areas of the islands where the Kermode bears live – Princess Royal, Gribbell, Roderick and Pooley – have already been logged. The spirit bear's traditional home is already much diminished. The logging industry has extracted substantial commercial value from the range of the spirit bear even as the provincial government planning process was proceeding!!


How do Spirit bears Survive in the Forest?

Hollow Tree - Bear Den
Bear Researcher looks inside hollow tree. Bears use large hollow trees as den sites.

Spirit bears thrive in their lush rainforest home on a diet of green plants, berries and salmon. In the winter, they hibernate in dry cavities inside giant old trees, protected from howling winter storms. The hibernating bear slowly digests its stored body fat. One amazing thing about spirit bears (and grizzly bears) is that their young are often born in the middle of winter, while the mother bear is still in hibernation. The tiny bear cubs, born blind and defenceless, stay in the den until spring, when the mother wakes and takes them on their first foray into the larger world of the rainforest.

Mock Ecosystem-Based Management Plan will Mask Logging Devastation of Great Bear Rainforest.

Recent helicopter high-grading of ancient cedar on the BC South coast. This is destroying critical den habitat for black bears and grizzly bears that hibernate in the hollows of large, old trees. Many centuries old trees are cut down and left in slash piles to burn. The clearcut , approved next to a natural landslide on steep, unstable slopes, caused another landslide out of the clearcut that ran down the mountainside into the salmon river below.

slash pile



Government agencies that approved this logging on unstable mountain sides in bear denning habitat do not monitor the landslides or prosecute the company for silting up a salmon river.

Without drastic changes, the new proposed Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) Logging for the coast will allow the continuation of this type of logging and destruction of bear denning and other critical wildlife old-growth habitats.

See press release

Download the entire VWS submission to government

Here are some links to other spirit bear sites:


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