“Spirit bear” of Whistler, B.C. has caught everyone’s eye

Written by on June 11, 2016 in Critter MIA, Rare Critters - 1 Comment

This unusual little fella has everyone talking in Whistler, British Columbia.

Guides and visitors have been spotting a white-coloured bear frolicking at the the famous ski resort. Michael Allen, the area’s resident bear expert, has been watching black bears there years, but this is a first.

“After 23 years of research, I have seen cubs ranging black, reddish brown, chocolate brown to blonde (after summer bleaching of coat) but, never have seen in this population, a cub with pelage this light to almost white,” he wrote this week in Whistler Blackcomb’s bear report.

Now, everyone is calling the wee cub Whistler’s “spirit bear” or Kermode bear, which is a subspecies of a black bear, but there are only an estimated 1,200 of them and generally living further much north along the coast toward the Alaska panhandle.

But experts are saying this bear looks more like a genetic anomaly than a true spirit bear.

“This is not an albino but rather, the cub is possibly a result of both parents having a recessive gene,” Allen added.

Guide Kathy Jenkins appears to be the first to have spotted the oddly-coloured cub, along with its mother, a resident black bear, snapping this photo that has caught everyone’s eye.

Guide Kathy Jenkins caught this adorable moment of a white black bear climbing on his other at Whistler, B.C.

Guide Kathy Jenkins caught this adorable moment when a white black bear climbed on his mother in Whistler, B.C.

Allen later took this photo, which has been shared by Cathryn Atkinson on Facebook.

Cathryn Atkinson shared this image of "mama bear with tawny cub" in Whistler./Michael Allen

Cathryn Atkinson shared this image of “mama bear with tawny cub” in Whistler./Michael Allen

But others have also captured the pair out and about.

Rich Budd was golfing when he saw them, posting the images immediately to Facebook.

“The spirit bear just out for a walk with mom on #12 today … Pretty much the best thing I’ve ever seen,” he wrote.

Mother and cub on taking a lap on the golf course/Rich Budd

Mother and cub on taking a lap on the golf course/Rich Budd

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler re-posted one of his images saying, “Meet Whistler’s very own ‘spirit bear’ cub! Mother and cub have been seen wondering the fairways of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course.”

Celebrity bear takes in a round of golf/Rich Budd

Celebrity bear takes in a round of golf/Rich Budd

Arthur de Jong, Whistler-Blackcomb’s mountain planning and environmental resource manager, has also spotted the cub and started snapping photos to send to experts, since he too has never seen anything like it before.

“It’s not white, its got a caramel, light, sort of brownish sheen to its fur,” De Jong told The Canadian Press, adding it doesn’t have a black nose, but if it’s eyes area “pink-blue colour” it could be an albino.

The mother, he said, is clearly a black bear.

Mother and cub frolic at Whistler-Blackcomb/Arthur De Jong

Mother and cub frolic at Whistler-Blackcomb/Arthur De Jong

And, Kathy Jenkins, who first brought Whistler’s spirit bear to the world’s attention, perhaps summed it up best with this Facebook post and another of De Jong’s photos.

“If you live every day for the beautiful things you may see,sometimes something so amazing comes along, that it reminds you to take care of the land you live in and every little thing that lives in it,” she wrote.

Cub dances while mother wanders by in Whistler/Arthur De Jong

Cub dances while its mother wanders by in Whistler/Arthur De Jong

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