Spirit Bear Perfection

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Captain John Lapp

As a wildlife guide, I have been very lucky to experience some amazing wildlife moments. I’ve seen Polar bears in Canada’s Arctic feeding on seals as they wait for the ice to freeze in Resolute Nunavut. Ive seen the largest animal ever viewing Blue and Fin Whales in the St. Lawrence, killer whales swimming under my kayak, Narwals and Belugas in the Arctic. So why the white or Spirit Bear what makes it so special? It is just a subspecies of the North American black bear where a recessive gene has roughly 10% born white but only in a very small corner of British Columbia.

Is seeing a white bear more amazing than seeing say 20 different grizzlies in a river system. Last year I guided a group of tourists into a river system and we watched many different grizzlies feeding on salmon.

Cubs with moms and large males is an amazing day but is it better than seeing one white bear? Debatable for sure and probably for some on that trip it was the best wildlife day of their life. For me, every day that I get to be around bears of any kind is a great day and some, of course, are ones that I will never forget.

Wildlife encounters are a personal experience that makes one better than the other is different for all. For those that enjoy watching wildlife we have some form of a wish list, I guess you could call it a bucket list. On a bucket list we all have them some are wildlife that we need to see and for others, it is the need to jump out of a plane and hope the parachute works. There are birders I have met that will travel great distances and spend lots of money to see a bird no matter how small that they have never seen before

Back to the white bear what is it that makes it so special. Does it even fit into its surroundings? White polar bears on snow and ice makes sense, white mountain goats on a snow field or glacier also makes sense. A white bear in a forest how would that look out of place or strange all questions that rolled around my brain. I might have been overthinking my first encounter with the white bear but did I mention it has been on my bucket list for over 25 years.

The white or spirit bear is a rare bear with estimates anywhere from 50 to 150 living in a very small corridor of the BC coast from Princess Royal Island as far north as Terrace on the mainland. The majority of the Spirit Bears are estimated to live within the Kitasoo Xaia Xais territory. To compare the estimates of Giant Pandas in the wild there are around 1800. One of the reasons I have never seen a white bear you need to be in a certain area and at the right time.

Wildlife encounters are a personal experience that makes one better than the other is different for all.

So the day comes which I have been waiting for a long time. I knew working here at Spirit Bear Lodge my chances would be good. I wasn’t sure what to expect was it going to be anticlimactic will it be an animal that looks out of place in its surroundings or so normal that it just blends in with all the other black bears feeding in the river.

Words can not describe what the moment was it was as magical and surreal as I envisioned. Seeing the white bear on the river watching and anticipating its next salmon meal.  Someone asked me what dd you think, I paused to find the right word to describe the feeling. Perfect was the first word to come to mind. Perfect seems to summarize that feeling for me and how the white bear fit into its surroundings and everything else about that moment.

Perfection obviously is based on a personal reflection this was a moment I had been waiting for for a long time and one I will never forget.

What is next on the bucket list? Not sure, I think I’m just going to enjoy this moment of perfection for the rest of the season.