Search icon


24th Sep 2022

One in a million ‘spirit bear’ photographed moments before being killed

Steve Hopkins

The sighting of the bear is a ‘sign of great change’

Photographers were able to capture a one in a million ‘spirit bear’ in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but a short time later the bear with white fur was killed.

Outdoor community group, Yooper Outdoors #906, posted three images of the bear on its Facebook page earlier this month, captioning the post: “Happy Bear Eve!! “There’s been a white black bear on camera in the Yoop! Extremely rare, but ya never know what may coming walking into your bait!”

The group later informed Fox News that the one-in-a-million bear, a male, was found dead shortly after the sighting. It was reportedly killed by wolves.

Yooper Outdoors #906 told the publication: “Our wolf population has devastated our big game populations in the U.P.”

It is the first time the bear has ever been spotted in Michigan history. Since the bear has an all-white coat and cinnamon colouring on the back of its head and neck, it makes the bear a Kermode bear, or ‘spirit bear’. Kermode bears are typically found along islands in British Columbia and black bears are more so found in the eastern parts of the US and Canada, said Cody Norton, wildlife biologist and large carnivore expert for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Commenting on the rarity of the bear, Norton, said: “I thought it was just too cool.

“It’s just exciting seeing an animal pop up like this here instead of somewhere else.

“We’ve had some cinnamon colour phases show up, some blonde and chocolate on some trail cameras we use for surveys, which is also really cool to see.

“But those are more common in bear populations. White is its own thing.”

Austin Ayres, Wildlife technician at Michigan’s Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Natural Resources Department, told MLive: “It is a sign of great change.

“Some stories say the bear only comes when it is time for Anishinaabe to embrace their role and step away from their distractions.”

He added: “It is a reminder that within nature, anything and everything is possible, and the people should not go seeking anything outside of nature but understand all we need is within.”

The trail cam pictures were captured by a resident of the Upper Peninsula who wanted to remain anonymous. The person told MLive they were stunned at what they saw on camera and deleted some images because they thought it was just their camera flash brightening up the fur of a common black bear.

According to “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.

“Most Spirit Bears live on Princess Royal and Gribbell Islands along the rainforest coast of British Columbia. They are considered a subspecies of black bears called Kermode bears (Ursus americanus kermodeii).

“About 20 percent of the bears on those islands are white; the rest are black. On the mainland, the percentage of white bears drops off drastically with distance from those islands.”

Related Links: