‘One in a million’: Rare 100-pound white ‘spirit bear’ seen on trail camera in first ever sighting in Michigan
A genetically rare black bear with white fur – often called a 'spirit bear' – has been living in the wilds of the western Upper Peninsula
LANSING, MICHIGAN: A rare male blond-colored spirit bear was found during the annual bear hunting which began on Wednesday, September 7 in Michigan. The bear was caught on a trail camera trained on a bait pile which ended up as a rare sighting of one of North America’s most elusive creatures.
Wildlife officials stated that this is the first time in Michigan history such an animal has been confirmed in the state. Most spirit bears are found on a few islands, including the Pacific coast in Canada’s British Columbia; hence, seeing this bear in Michigan is rare.
According to the North American Bear Center, "Spirit bears are rare black bears with white or creamy fur, brown eyes, dark nose pads, and nearly white claws. They are not polar bears or albinos. Maybe 100 exist." hence, the finding of a spirit bear with blonde colorings added to the uniqueness of the sight.
Mlive reported that Lynn Rogers of the Wildlife Research Institute in Minnesota who is a well-known bear researcher confirmed it is a “spirit bear” in Michigan. He also added that it is an incredible discovery for wildlife science. “So, there are a few genes in this area,” he said, excitedly. “It’s a double-recessive gene. And if there are fewer of those genes here, it’s going to be rare that you get a double-recessive combination.” Furthermore, according to the nonprofit North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota, the animal found in Michigan is genetically a one-in-a-million bear.
Wildlife trail camera in the western U.P. captures images of first black bear with a blonde coat ever confirmed in Michigan. https://t.co/bEBey89hLk— MLive (@MLive) September 16, 2022
According to Independent, black bears can be seen across North America, from Alaska all the way down to Mexico and Florida. However, only British Columbia has all-white bears in place. The bears are also known as Kermode bears after Francis Kermode, who ran the province’s Royal BC Museum in the early 20th century. Cody Norton, wildlife biologist and large carnivore expert for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said, “So very cool. Very beautiful animal.”
Spirit bears have a special place in the culture of some indigenous groups in the Pacific Northwest. This year, First Nations organizations worked with the British Columbia government to help protect these animals.
Norton further added, “Obviously, I’d love to actually see it. If it did get harvested, we’d love to take a genetic sample and get to see if this is the same exact genetic mutation that is what is found in British Columbia in the remote bear population or if it’s something different."
In the USA, there are no legal protections for bears with white fur in Michigan to safeguard them unlike there are in British Columbia for the Kermode or “spirit bears”. These bears are famous for their unique standing in the forest their white fur offers camouflage against often cloud-filled skies.