Science | May 24, 2020 6:00 am

Family Makes Rare Sighting of White Grizzly Bear in Canadian Rockies

These aren't the kind of bears you see every day

Bear illustration
White grizzly bears are famously hard to find in nature.
Pearson Scott Foresman/Creative Commons

When you think of a grizzly bear, you probably imagine one with brown fur. This is understandable: nearly all grizzly bears have brown fur, and finding a photographic record of a white grizzly is no easy feat. Earlier this month, however, one family traveling through the Canadian Rockies came across a rare sight: two grizzly siblings, one with brown fur and one with white fur. Cara Clarkson took a short video of the bear that she and her family encountered — the first such images of this particular bear to be recorded.

At The Guardian, Leyland Cecco explains why this is such a rare sight. While there are a number of bears with light-colored fur, white grizzlies are the result of a number of factors all perfectly aligning:

Experts say the colouring is the result of a recessive gene in the cub – not albinism. Nor is the young bear a member of another Canadian subspecies, the Kermode “spirit” bear, which is found in the temperate rainforests of the country’s west coast. Those elusive animals also have white fur, but are a subspecies of the black bear – not the grizzly.

The history of most of these rare bears, including the Kermode bears, makes for fascinating reading. But that fascination can have a downside. Cecco’s article notes that some conservationists are concerned that bear enthusiasts will seek out this white bear as quarantines are ended and travel increases. As conservation biologist Mike Gibeau told The Guardian, “These unusual-looking animals get hunted ruthlessly by photographers, and so the less we talk about them, the better.”

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.