New research shows rare Spirit bear needs more protection

Close up of Spirit bear's face, white fur and brown eyes.

Photo by Colleen Gara.

Spirit bears are rarer than we thought and protection of their habitat is inadequate.

New research has identified that the small genetic change responsible for Spirit bears – a rare, white-coated form of black bears – is up to 50% rarer in the Great Bear Rainforest than previously estimated.

The study also indicates that geographic hotspots, where the Spirit bear version of the gene was especially prominent, lack adequate protection from resource extraction.

The paper helps to inform land use planning, which could include increased protection for Spirit bears in the form of Indigenous Protected Areas.

The study was conducted by scientists and stewardship practitioners from the Kitasoo/Xai’xais and Gitga’at First Nations, Coastal First Nations, Douglas Neasloss, University of Victoria, Spirit Bear Research Foundation and Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

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