British Columbia’s spirit or kermode bears — a rare genetic white form of black bear — are protected from hunting, yet their black-bear parents aren’t.
Ian McAllister of the B.C. conservation group Pacific Wild says that less than two per cent of the “genetic range” of spirit bears are protected from trophy hunting. These white bears, unique to Canada, are found only in north-central coastal B.C., on Princess Royal Island and several river habitats, including the Skeena and Nass valleys. Their highest concentration is on Princess Royal Island, where roughly one in 10 black bears is white.
Yet McAllister points out the hypocrisy of making the spirit bear such a popular public icon for British Columbia and Canada when its genetic legacy does not even enjoy protection. He recently told The Vancouver Sun: “How can British Columbia be celebrating the spirit bear in the opening Olympic ceremony and as an official mascot to the Olympics when trophy hunting is allowed in over 98 per cent of the animal’s genetic range?”
As a further insult, the British Columbia government in 2006 trademarked the name “spirit bear” — a term used for generations in the oral history of certain coastal B.C. First Nations — for commercial use. Then-Finance Minister Carole Taylor said that the province registered ownership of the name so it could legally use it on government publications. This gives the B.C. government legal power to sell the right to use the name “Spirit Bear” to private companies to generate revenue.
For more information on B.C. trophy hunting of bears, click here.
For more information on the trademark issue, click here.