GRIBBELL ISLAND – MOTHER ISLAND OF THE WHITE SPIRIT BEAR – NEEDS TO BE PROTECTED
Small but rugged Gribbell Island (20,690 ha) sits astride two of BC’s central coast marine shipping lanes, the Inside Passage and Douglas Channel. A UBC genetics study headed by Dr. Kermit Ritland discovered that the island is evolutionarily significant as over 40% of its small isolated population of 100-150 Kermode bears, a subspecies of the North American black bear, are white. This represents Canada’s Galapagos. Evolutionary biologists believe that the gene for the white coat evolved on Gribbell and they call it the “mother island of the white bears”. A 2012 VWS cumulative effects study by Wayne McCrory showed that past over hunting and trapping and collection of white hides for museums combined with clearcut logging and declining salmon runs may be putting this unique bear gene pool on the edge. Climate change also will have an impact. The island needs to be protected by the province and the Gitga’at First Nation as a conservancy or park.
The VWS spirit bear project is supported by the Winton Foundation for the Welfare of Bears. See the spirit bear in their June Newsletter: wintonbearfoundation.org
Learn more about Dr. Ritland’s exciting spirit bear genetic studies: genetics.forestry.ubc.ca/Ritland
Article in Evolution (Volume 66. Issue 2) on population genetics of spirit bear: onlinelibrary.wiley.com › Evolution › Evolutionary Biology › Evolution
Download the reports SPIRIT BEARS UNDER SIEGE:
The Case for the Protection of Gribbell Island (58 pages)
Link to Vancouver Sun article