Spirit Bear Lodge - Our first encounter with a Spirit Bear in Canada
Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, British Colombia is where we found ourselves back in 2004 on a bear safari in search of the elusive 'Kermode' or 'Ghost' bear. The lodge is reached by a spectacular floatplane journey from Bella Bella and is located in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. Before we offer a new Canada wildlife tour to our clients, we always recce the location personally ourselves and here is the exiting account of our Spirit bear safari.
Our search for the rare and elusive Kermode or Spirit Bear (a genetic variation of the Black Bear that is born white) led us to a vibrant First Nations community on a small island off the beautiful Central Coast of British Columbia, halfway between Port Hardy in the north of Vancouver Island, and Prince Rupert to the north. Here in a cluster of small islands covered in pristine old growth temperate rainforest - part of the world famous Great Bear Rainforest - these mystical white bears occur in greater numbers than anywhere else in North America. Here 1 in 10 Black Bears are born white due to a recessive gene, and on one island in particular the ratio is as high as 1 in 4. We were not getting our hopes up however, as everything we had read and heard about Spirit Bears had reinforced how notoriously elusive and rarely sighted they are. After all they are spiritually very significant to the local First Nations population and an appearance by one is considered to be an extremely good omen and potentially momentous. Despite all this, our lucky streak with bears prevailed and we didn’t have long to wait for our first glimpse of this Spirit of the Rainforest.
Led by our Tsimshian guide, we and the other guests had only just stepped off the boat and got settled in a natural hide when, from the treeline on the other side of a river, a magnificent white mature female emerged. She was followed by her two first year cubs, bundles of mischievous energy, and as black as their father who obviously did not carry the Kermode gene. The small family group wandered the far bank for about 15 minutes before the cubs decided to raid a nearby crab apple tree. In the blink of an eye, as agile as monkeys they had reached the high branches, 50 feet up, soon to be joined by their mother, whose not insubstantial bulk seemed to defy both gravity and the seemingly spindly nature of the branches. Eventually they disappeared beyond the emerald green curtain they had emerged from, but an hour later they appeared again further upstream from us, spent some time fishing for salmon, and then swam across to our side of the river. We shifted our position to get a better look at them, but before long they melted away, back into their green world.