14 Canada’s Bears

It is often said that in Vancouver you have to lock your doors – not for strangers, but for bears. This could be true for most, if not all, of British Columbia. Bears are everywhere. In fact, the majority of Canada’s bear population lives in British Columbia. The province has a variety of geographical features, ranging from rugged forests and high mountains to flat meadows and rolling valleys. It even has a desert. As a result, these diverse landscapes house different kinds of animals – a number of them being bears. There are, in fact, many different kinds of bears in British Columbia, but the most famous ones are probably the black bear, the grizzly bear, and the spirit bear.

The black bear is by far the most common type of bear found in British Columbia. It is found all over the province to varying degrees but particularly in wet areas (Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks, 2001). According to the Ministry, they currently number around 120,000 to 160,000 in the province and actually come in different colours besides black. For example, the black bear can appear in cinnamon, brown, or blonde fur as well (North American Bear Center, 2020). The typical black bear has a heavy body, small eyes, a big head, and round ears and is the smallest of all the bears in British Columbia (Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks, 2001). Skeletons found in caves on Vancouver Island suggest black bears have been in the area since the retreat of glaciers, 18,000 years ago (Nxumalo, 2015).

The grizzly bear, a type of brown bear, is probably the most ferocious of the three. A healthy presence of the grizzly bear, whose numbers currently sit at around 15,000 in B.C., translates into a healthy ecosystem for all other species (Environmental Reporting B.C., 2012). The grizzly is famous for its size and aggression but is rarely encountered by humans as it tends to be solitary in nature. Encounters that do occur are often fatal to humans. On average, grizzlies live around 25 years, weigh a whopping 800 lbs., and often have grizzled or white-tipped fur (National Geographic, 2020). Although their diet mainly consists of berries, nuts, leaves, roots, and different kinds of fruit, they are also known to feast on animals from time to time – some as large as moose (National Geographic, 2020). One interesting fact is that the females give birth in the winter months, usually to twins.

The spirit bear found only in British Columbia is the most unique of all the bears. It is actually a subspecies of the black bear that holds a recessive gene which changes its fur colour to white or cream (Groc, 2020). There are only an estimated 400 spirit bears left in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, a 6.4 million-hectare temperate rainforest where the bears live (Groc, 2020). Their main source of sustenance is salmon, supplemented with berries, insects, plants, fruits, and nuts (Service, 2017). Due to its unusual colour, the indigenous people of British Columbia view the spirit bear – also known as the ghost bear or the kermode bear – as sacred. Although weighing up to 200 kg., this bear is shy and mysterious in nature and rarely seen (Service, 2017).

To sum up, although Canada is home to other bears, such as the polar bear and the brown bear, the three most famous in British Columbia are the black bear, the grizzly, and the spirit bear, with the last one found nowhere else in the world. Of these, the most elusive are the grizzly and the spirit bear, with the black bear widely roaming the province for all to see. The deadliest of the three is, of course, the grizzly. The bear with the most enigmatic and divine status is the white spirit bear. Regardless of which type of bear you may encounter, it would be wise to remember that bears are not human companions. They are wild to the core.



Environmental Reporting B.C. (2012). Grizzly bear status in B.C. Retrieved March 4, 2020 from http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/soe/indicators/plants-and-animals/grizzly-bears.html

Groc, I. (2020). Ten spirit bear facts you need to know. Retrieved March 24, 2020 from https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/mammals/facts-about-spirit-bear/

Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks (2001). Black bears in British Columbia. Retrieved February 20, 2020 from http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/blackbear.pdf

National Geographic (2020). Grizzly bear. Retrieved March 24, 2020 from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/g/grizzly-bear/

North American Bear Center (2020). Black bear colour phases. Retrieved March 2, 2020 from https://bear.org/black-bear-color-phases/

Nxumalo, F. (2015). Forest stories: Restoring encounters with natural places in early childhood education. In V. Pacini-Ketchabaw & A. Taylor (Eds.), Unsettling the colonial places and spaces of early childhood education(21-42). New York: Routledge.

Service, C. (2017). Spirit bear. Retrieved March 24, 2020 from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/spirit-bear


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