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The Spirit Bear Of Princess Royal Island

Updated on December 14, 2020

Here your will learn more about the life and habits of this amazing animal


Off the rugged coast of British Columbia, the Spirit Bear resides. It is found only on Princess Royal Island and possibly a few of the smaller surrounding islands. This area is composed of dense rain forest, rich in wildlife, and all the nourishment such life needs for survival. Although the actual number of Spirit Bears remaining, is unknown, it is estimated to be between one and four hundred.


It is thought that the bear got its name from the First Nations people of the area who revered the animal. They called the Spirit Bear 'moskgm"ol' and considered it a spiritual protector for the First Nations people.

The Spirit Bear is not a type of polar bear or an albino, as originally thought. It is instead a sub-species of the American Black Bear also known as the Kermode bear. The Kermode bear came into being as a result of a double-recessive gene, some time as far back as the ice ages. More genetic testing is necessary to fully understand the origins and scientific history of the rare breed.

Although most Kermode bears are black, as is the American Black Bear, some are creamy white and remain so throughout their lives. These are the true Spirit Bears.


The creamy-white Spirit Bear thrives on a diet rich in salmon. When these are not available, the bear survives as an omnivore, eating berries, insects, greens, small animals and even carrion.

When massive winter blizzards threaten to wrack the area, the Spirit Bear finds or builds a den, and hibernates under the protection of giant trees, felled by age and weather. Here, as the sow hibernates, the cubs are born. Blind and helpless at birth, they remain safe in the den, until spring brings an end to the period of hibernation. The cubs will then leave the den with their mother and search for salmon or other food to nourish their growing bodies.


Although first nations peoples no longer consider the hunting of bears to be legal, such is not true of the general population. Black bears are routinely hunted and killed, and so the lives of Spirit Bears are put into peril as are the other species that share the Spirit Bears ecosystem - eagles, other types of bears, wolves, and many small species.

Because the Spirit Bear depends for its survival on a plentiful supply of salmon, its future could be uncertain. Much of the bear's original habitat has already been logged. Roads built in the process give access to hunters and poachers, who consider all bears as fair game. Hillsides cleared of logs turn into mud slides and in heavy rainfalls slip downhill clogging vital salmon streams with silt.


Though its numbers have dwindled, the Spirit Bear is not yet considered an endangered species. Nevertheless, through the efforts of Environmental Agencies, ten conservancies have been established for the protection of the Spirit Bear.

However, the ecosystem of the area remains threatened. Logging continues throughout the area as man intrudes further and further into the home of this rare and beautiful animal. If the clogging of streams continues and salmon stocks diminish, the bears face further danger. Grizzlies, also threatened by diminishing salmon stocks may inadvertently wander into Spirit Bear terrain. Grizzlies are larger and stronger than Spirit bears so they could present a further threat to the survival of the amazing Spirit Bear. It has been suggested that ecotourism may be the key to helping these wonderful animals survive.


The Spirit Bear is the provincial animal of British Columbia.

To see some magnificent pictures of this rare and magnificent bear go to - In Pictures: The Spirit Bear, the rare 'blond' black bear of Canada's western coast


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