February 2010 Archives
A rare form of black bear--that is actually white--faces threats to its survival in its British Columbia habitat
by Jessica Snyder Sachs
FROM THE DOCK of British Columbia's Hartley Bay, guide Marvin Robinson looks across the waters of the Douglass Channel to Gribbell Island. The 96-square-mile island--thickly forested in hemlock, cedar and fir--is home to the world's highest concentration of the rare "spirit bear"--a pale color variant of the American black bear. Long revered by the First Nations of British Columbia, scientists dubbed it the Kermode bear in 1905 after one of the first scientists to study the species, Francis Kermode. ... READ MORE at NATIONAL WILDLIFE.
For this month's issue of National Wildlife I had the pleasure of researching and writing "Spirit Bear: Icon for an Endangered Ecosystem." I've been enamored with this subspecies of black bear--also known as the Kermode bear--ever since I first caught a glimpse of one (or imagined I did) in the 1970s at a dump in Terrace, BC.
In recent years, the BC government has worked with conservationists, First Nations, and timber companies to protect the Spirit Bear's habitat--the largest intact stretch of temperate rain forest in the world. But today this ecosystem -- and Canada's beloved "panda" -- remain at risk, with an ominous new threat of oil tanker traffic on the horizon.