White spirit bear with salmon.

Totem pole depicting bear with salmon.

The Spirit Bear

Polar bears in the rainforest of British Columbia? Albino bears? Good guess, but both are wrong. Haunting the ancient moss-laden forests along the Pacific coast are white-coated bears that are a subspecies of the North American black bear. Known as a Kermode or spirit bear, about one in ten is white, the rest coal-black. Spirit bears are found nowhere else in the world.

In 1987, the Valhalla Wilderness Society started working with First Nations on a science-based program to establish a large sanctuary for the spirit bear in the heartland of British Columbia's still-intact temperate rainforest on Princess and Gribbell Islands and adjacent mainland areas. We also created an anti-poaching fund for illegal hunting of grizzly bears and white-phase Kermodes.

In 2006, 19 years later, after a major international campaign, the B.C. provincial government and First Nations protected about 1/3 of the Great Bear Rainforest including about ½ million acres in 11 different conservancies for the spirit bear. Wonderfully, about 80% of Valhalla’s original Spirit Bear Conservancy Proposal was protected.

However, much work still needs to be done. Our spirit bear conservation programs urgently need your help including:

  • Proper management of new protected areas, including adequate bear-viewing guidelines and restrictions to helicopter tourism which disturbs bears and mountain goats.
  • Increase full protection to 50% of the coast including Green Inlet-Valley and Gribbell Island “mother island of the white bear”.
  • Improvement of so-called Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) logging guidelines including increased protection of salmon streams and ancient trees used by bears for winter dens.
  • End trophy hunting of black Kermodes and grizzlies (white Kermodes are protected).
  • Stop the disastrous proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline from the tar sands. If approved, an imminent oil tanker spill is the greatest threat ever to the Spirit Bear Coast.

This website will allow you to learn more about this rare and beautiful creature. When you are ready, please go to the Action Centre to learn how you can help protect it further.

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