In Search of the Elusive Kermode Bear

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The northwest region of BC is home to a mystical white  animal that roams the rainforests and coastline.  The Spirit or Kermode Bear as many call it is a rare animal with less than 400 existing in a region that spans from the Burke Channel to the south and as far north as the Nass Valley.  The highest concentrations of about 120 bears are found in the Gitga’at of Hartley Bay territory on Gribbell Island.  The Kermode is essentially a black bear or Ursus  americanus  kermodei.  This white colored  fur  is due to a double recessive gene unique in the subspecies where both parents carry the gene.  It is therefore possible for a black colored mom to give birth to a white Kermode bear cub. The Kermode Bear was given its name in 1905 by Francis Kermode, a zoologist with the  British Columbia Provincial Museum.  The proper pronunciation of the Kermode name is  Kerm-moad and not  ker –mo-dee as is most commonly used.

Kermode and Black Bear - Terrace BC

Photo credit: Rob Bryce

For most people visiting the area a sighting would be quite rare.  Some of the “hot spots” for sightings include the town of Rosswood 50 km north of Terrace, the Nass Valley, Kitwanga, and Cranberry Junction. The bears can be seen at any time when not hibernating in the winter but the spring is always a good time especially when the dandelions and other plants begin to emerge on the edge of roads.  Other locals find that October seems to be a good month as they attempt to fatten up before winter sets in.

Kermode bear - Terrace BC

Photo credit: Rob Bryce

The Kermode Bears can also be seen in the Terrace area and for a guaranteed sighting look high up on the rock face of Terrace Mountain.  Terrace is also the place to begin your search each day for this elusive bear. The  Yellow Cedar Lodge, 5 minutes west of Terrace is a full service B&B style lodge that will give you a great night’s sleep and get you on your way each day for your Kermode Bear viewing adventure.

(Photo credit for featured image – Fred Seiler)

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