Kamloops home to rare Spirit bear
When conservation officers trapped a young bear that had been hanging around an archeological dig in the Terrace area for more than a week, they were faced with an unusual scenario.
The bear already had a history with the conservation service. Orphaned a year earlier, it had been fitted with a radio collar and released from a rehabilitation facility in Smithers during the summer.
But, the collar had fallen off about a week earlier. Worse, when the bear wandered into an unexpectedly populated area, it showed no fear of people.
Under the circumstances a normal black bear would have been destroyed.
Clover, however, is not a normal black bear.
The year-old bruin is a Kermode bear, also known as a Spirit bear — a black bear with a blond or white coat.
Spirit bears are the provincial mammal of B.C. and incredibly rare — with fewer than 1,000 thought to exist on the province’s central and north coast.
So, instead of putting him down, provincial authorities sent Clover on a road trip to Kamloops, to become the latest addition to the B.C. Wildlife Park.
“This is huge,” general manager Glenn Grant said as members of the park’s board and the media got a first look at the cub on Monday, Oct. 29.
As far as Grant knows, there are no other Kermode bears in captivity in the world — and Clover may be only the second Spirit bear to ever live in a zoo. The first Grant has been able to find lived in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park, but died in the 1940s.
Though the bears don’t have the dark coats of other black bears, they are not albinos. Instead, they get their distinctive colouring from recessive genes.
Because Clover is a wild bear, park staff expect it will take several months to get him settled into his new environment and used to dealing with large volumes of people.
He’ll also need a new enclosure.
Though he was raised with other black bears, animal-care supervisor Tara Geiger said there isn’t room in the park’s black-bear pen for another animal and Grant said they want to avoid placing him with other males.
Grant said he expects the enclosure will cost up to $500,000, but added that, with a bear this unique, finding willing donors is unlikely to be an issue.
If all goes as planned, Clover could be on display to the public by next spring or early summer.
So far, Geiger said, Clover is settling in well — despite spending four days in a bear trap after capture and a long, bumpy trip to Kamloops.
“The first night he was here, even after that long few days and that long drive here, he came and ate right away,” she said. “I think he’ll be a very nice addition to the park. I don’t think he’ll be too stressed out or have a negative reaction.”
Though technically too old to be considered a cub, Clover still has a lot of growing to do before he reaches his full size. He weighs about 150 pounds, but could top out closer to 500 pounds.
Spirit bears typically live about 25 years in the wild, though Grant said it wouldn’t be surprising to see Clover live to 30 years in the park.