The Rare ‘White’ Black Bears of Canada

The Kermode Bear

Africa Geographic recently released an article on the rare Kermode bear, which is also known as a ‘spirit bear’. Similar to the rare white lions of the Timbavati, of which there are a few living not far from our safari camp, the Kermode Bear is completely white and can be born from ‘normal’ coloured parents.

The Kermode is a subspecies of the American Black Bear, and lives in the central and north coast of Canada. They are not albinos, or related to polar bears, their white colour is the result of a phenomenon known as Kermodism, which is triggered by a recessive mutation of the MC1R gene.

Kermode bears are no less healthy than ‘normal’ black bears, and in fact, scientists have proven that they are more successful at catching fish as they are less visible to them. National Geographic estimates that there are anywhere between 400 and 1000 Kermode bears.

A white lion photographed recently in the Timbavati

White lions are very similar in that they are normal healthy lions which simply display the effects of a recessive gene known as the chinchilla or colour inhibitor. The condition displayed is known as “leucism’ and is also distinct from albinism. They are not albinos and have normal eyes. Our guests are sometimes fortunate enough to witness these remarkable animals whilst visiting our safari camp.

To read the full article from National Geographic discussing the Kermode bears in more detail, click here.