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10 things you probably don't know about bears

By: Jaymi Heimbuch on Oct. 20, 2015, 9:36 a.m.
Black bears of Kermode sometimes have white coats.

Photo: jonmccormackphoto/iStock

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Spirit bears prowl the Northwest

The most famous of the differently-colored black bears is probably the rare Kermode bear of British Columbia.

Also known as spirit bears for their role in the oral history of native peoples, these black bears have an all-white or cream-colored coat. Not albino, and not related in any way to polar bears, these bears simply display the result of a double recessive gene that is unique to the subspecies. About one-tenth of all black bears in this subspecies have such uniquely colored fur.

Outside of the Great Bear Rain Forest of British Columbia, only around one in 1 million black bears has a white coat, so the population of Kermode bears is truly special. There are only around 100-200 of these bears in existence. Due to habitat loss, primarily from logging, and other factors, the Kermode bear is at risk of disappearing if protections are not put in place.