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Spirit Bears 2014

Bears: One of the most beautiful, mysterious and feared creatures on earth. Highly intelligent and curious, they command respect wherever they roam. The Kermode Bear, otherwise known as the Spirit Bear moves through the dark, dripping landscape of the Great Bear Rainforest with such elusive elegance, it does indeed seem like an apparition.

First Nations legend tells us that Raven (the great creator) bestowed the bear with a white coat, deigning it to be ‘pure’. Some scientists say the white gene is a recessive mutation that goes back to the Ice Age, where white may have been the common colour of camouflage for a bear in glacial habitat.
The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world. White fur occurs in only one of every 40 to 100 black bears on the British Columbia mainland coast, but the trait is especially pronounced on certain islands in the Great Bear Rainforest*. The island I am about to visit holds a high percentage of nearly one third white bears possibly because of the lack of grizzlies, the senior and more dominant ursine cousin.

The Spirit Bear walks in a pristine wilderness, the tenuous existence of which is constantly threatened by logging, pipelines, oil spills and poachers. The salmon that form a vital link to their survival are also on the precipice of having their unique life cycle disturbed by humankind. In an effort to preserve this ecological wonderland, certain First Nations and Conservation groups have bought up as many of the ‘hunting leases’ as possible in a large area of Rainforest where they now allow the Spirit Bears to be hunted only by those of us whose intrepid nature and endless patience will allow us to shoot with our cameras not our guns.

Post Script

I was happy that I managed to negotiate the challenging bear trails and slippery river beds without a fall during the whole trip. On the morning of our last day, we spent time in the village photographing the local people and scenery. It was a foggy morning (my favourite) and I walked out along the float plane pier and down to the dock. I carefully edged my way down the ramp and when I hit the bottom both feet slipped out from under me and I found myself flat on my butt, camera still in hand. I looked up from my involuntary sitting position and noticed the sun coming through the fog and a nice composition of fish nets and ropes in the foreground. I spent the next 20 minutes shooting from this position and being thankful for it. Ah, the romantic life of the nature photographer!

The Dock1


  • (From Wikipedia) Coastal temperate rainforests are characterized by their proximity to both ocean and mountains. Abundant rainfall results when the atmospheric flow of moist air off the ocean collides with mountain ranges. The size of the Great Bear Rainforest is roughly 32,000 km2 (12,000 sq mi). The Great Bear Rainforest extends from the Discovery Islands in the south to the BC-Alaska boundary in the north. It includes all offshore islands within this range except Vancouver Island and the archipelago of Haida Gwaii. Its northern end reaches up Portland Canal to the vicinity of Stewart. To the south it includes Prince Rupert, most of Douglas Channel, half of Hawkesbury Island, and part of Gardner Canal. Kitimat is outside the region, to the east. Farther south, the region includes all of the coast west and south of the Fiordland Conservancy, Kitlope Heritage Conservancy Protected Area, Tweedsmuir North and Tweedsmuir South Provincial Parks—which includes Dean Channel, Burke Channel, Rivers Inlet, and the communities of Bella Bella, Bella Coola, and Hagensborg. The southern end of the region includes Knight Inlet but not Bute Inlet.
  • Map-GBR