Best Times to See Spirit Bears
The Spirit Bear is one of the rarest animals in the world. It is truly a transformative experience to spend time in one’s presence.
Current population estimates are under review and vary from 50 to 150 individuals. This elusive animal is only found in a small portion of the Great Bear Rainforest. Kitasoo/Xai’xais territory is home to the largest proportion of the spirit bear population and the only Spirit Bear conservancy.
We can spot this amazing animal at any time during our season, however, the most reliable viewing is linked to the salmon run. The salmon run varies year to year because of rainfall and other mysterious factors, we generally see the first salmon enter rivers between mid-August and the beginning of September.
Sightings of the spirit bear in this wild landscape vary, but the search is as much a part of the experience as a sighting.
Roughly 50% of our guests will set eyes on the secretive white bear that remains hidden in the trackless wilderness of The Great Bear Rainforest.
Spirit bears are rare white-coated black bears (Ursus americanus kermodei) that live in the coastal temperate rainforests of Northwest British Columbia. Their striking colour is caused by an uncommon recessive genetic trait. Spirit bears are not a unique species or subspecies, but a unique colouration of the coastal British Columbian black bear subspecies kermodei.
Spirit bears are rare white- or cream-coated black bears whose colouration is caused by a genetic trait that is uncommon within coastal black bears. Their entire coat is white, from the roots to the tips of their hair. However, they are not albinos and as a result have dark eyes and noses similar to black-coated black bears.
Their unique colouration is caused by a rare variation at the Mc1r gene (melanocortin 1 receptor), which is involved in melanin production, or the pigment responsible for skin, hair and eye colour. This is the same gene that controls for red hair in humans and blond coats in Labrador retrievers.