A Spirit bear lies on moss-covered log, Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia Canada
In the language of Gitgaat First Nation, Maah means Grandmother.
This Kermode (Ursus americanus kermodei) or Spirit Bear, known to the locals as Maah, is thought to be 18 years old,and has birthed many cubs, some white some black, who in turn have birthed their own. Maâah is a gentle spirit, and has a kind soul. For much of her life she has roamed the island on which she was born and lived in peace and harmony with the Gitgaat people, eating berries before the salmon arrive at her stream and gorging on the salmon for the few short weeks they are around before hibernating for the winter.
The recessive gene needed to have a black bear become white is similar to the gene needed for redheads: both parents need to have the gene present. These bears are not albinos. Their eyes are the same color as their black relatives. Another endearing characteristic of the spirit bears are their extra long eye lashes.
There is a very small population of black bears, thought to live only in the Great Bear Rainforest, that carry the recessive gene. Scientists put the number of spirit bears in the world somewhere between 200 and 500. The indigenous people here think it is more like 100-150.
The salmon run up along the whole coast of British Columbia has been virtually non-exisitant this year. On one island where there are 4 streams that typically have 70-80,000 pink salmon come to spawn, only about 400 have been seen. The drought in the area has kept the streams at very low levels and few are making it into Maâahâs creek.Walking the stream every day you can see there is a small school of fish waiting for the rains to come before it is too late. The salmon that have made it are hardly enough to support the islandâs bear population voracious appetite. The level in the creek is so low that isolated pools have formed from where there is no escape for the fish. The bears have found these pools and eating all fish in them. One has to wonder how may will survive to spawn and become the bearâs food source two years from now.
After feasting on salmon all night and most of the day, this old soul decided to rest on on a log along the creek where she catches the salmon that sustain her. This log is familiar to her; she has walked across it, up and down the creek, thousands of times. On this day, with a carcass of a freshly killed salmon nearby, she decided to lay down for a nap.
Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia Canada