Cara Clarkson and her family had a once-in-a-lifetime experience after coming across a white grizzly bear. The rare colour is caused by a recessive gene that makes fur white.
“We were like ‘holy smokes! That is full on a white grizzly bear.’ We knew we were so lucky because white grizzly bears are unheard of,” Cara told St. Albert Today.
According to Mike Gibeau, who is considered one of North America’s top grizzly bear experts, white grizzly bears are ‘exceedingly rare’.
“I have never in all my time working with grizzly bears – since the early 1980s – seen a white grizzly bear. I’ve seen a really, really blond grizzly, but never a white one,” the retired Parks Canada carnivore specialist told St Albert Today. Having watched the video he also ruled it out as an albino, saying that is ‘something different’.
“You do get black grizzly bears, like coal black, and I’ve seen a number of those, but to have the opposite, very, very light, is uncommon, and to have one that is absolutely white is just unheard of.”
White grizzlies are also a different species to the more well known Kermode “spirit” bear, a subspecies of the American black bear living in the Central and North Coast regions of British Columbia, Canada.
Jon Stuart-Smith, a wildlife management specialist in the area, told St. Albert Today that the bears were able to get inside the highway’s wildlife exclusions fence because the fence was buried in some places to due to particularly snow drifts this year.
The two bears in the video are siblings, and their mother is said to be ‘bear 156’, a female collared for the study on grizzly bear mortality on the railway by Canadian Pacific-Parks Canada. A key cause of grizzly bear deaths in Banff and Yoho national parks are from train strikes, and research was undertaken to understand the issue and identify solutions. We can only hope this white grizzly and its sibling move onto locations further away from busy roads and railways.
According to St. Albert Today, authorities in the area are doing what they can to look after the bears, with warning signs alerting drivers to their presence, urging drivers to pay special attention, and if the bears continue to hang around, Parks Canada will consider other options, such as reduced speed limits.