Save the Spirit Bears

The spirit bears, otherwise known as Kermode bears, are actually American Black Bears of a different color. Spirit or ghost bears have long held a prominent place in Native American cultures. They can be found habituating British Columbia’s northern and central costal areas. Spirit bears currently face many of the same threats that wildlife faces worldwide due to human activities.

Kermode bears are a subspecies of the American Black Bear, with a light colored coat, resulting from recessive gene also carried or passed on by black bears. Since spirit bears have dark colored eyes and pigmented skin visible around their muzzles and paws, they are not considered albinos. There is evidence that the creamy coat lends an advantage over the dark coat of their brethren during day time fishing sessions, which may explain the relatively high density of Kermode bears in specific habitats. Furthermore, the revered status of the spirit bear lent protection from human hunters.

In Native American cultures, the bears seasonal death (hibernation) in late fall and winter and rebirth (awakening and bringing new life) in spring symbolized the seasons of the earth. These fierce powerful creatures have evoked much symbolism varying greatly throughout Native American cultures.

Logging and climate change threaten the bears similarly most wildlife species who call relatively untouched, ecologically sensitive habitats home. The Enbridge Northern Gateway project introduces a new potential threat to these unique bears. This project entails petroleum pipelines to the British Columbian coast near the Princess Royal and Gribell Islands.

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