Despite many successes, the spirit bear remains in peril and in desperate need of both public support for its conservation and political leadership to ensure its future.
A genetically unique subspecies of the black bear, the Kermode bear is only found in one small corner of the world, one small corner of Canada’s west coast, where one out of every ten Kermode bears are born white. Fewer than 400 white bears remain.
In an effort to help protect their vanishing habitat, recent government land-use plans have attempted to address the spirit bear’s conservation. While great strides have been made, just over 10% of the land protected from development on British Columbia’s coast is home to the spirit bear and of the critical 250,000 hectares that compose this bear’s last intact habitat, only two-thirds is off-limits to logging. The critical, unprotected final third of this ecosystem must be saved if the Kermode subspecies is to survive.
And habitat loss isn’t the only threat to the future of the spirit bear. While it is illegal to kill the white Kermode bear, it is not illegal to kill the black Kermode bear, even in most protected areas – a bizarre policy given it is the black Kermode that produces the white gene.
WHAT WE STAND TO LOSE
The combined threat of habitat loss and trophy hunting is of particular concern to the future of the subspecies given the sensitive nature of the gene pool. without the protection of a large enough ecosystem and a sufficient surrounding buffer zone, there is the real risk of altering the process that creates these bears and, eventually, causing the unique gene’s extinction.
If the spirit bear disappears, more than likely, the overall health of the ecosystem will be greatly diminished as well.
Due to the bear’s fur colour, it is better camouflaged when fishing for salmon than other bears on the coast and the more salmon they catch, the more salmon carcasses that are left to rot on the forest floor. And it is the rotting salmon carcasses that provide the nutrients for the region’s trees to grow to the size they are: shading the streams for the salmon to spawn, acting as dens for all bears in the winter months, and regulating the health of the global climate as the planet’s lungs.
In fact, the spirit bear, in this one small corner of the world, helps sustain a remarkable diversity of life within the world’s last large area of intact temperate rainforest – a critical carbon sink for life the world over.
SAVING THE SPIRIT BEAR
Though the BC and Canadian governments appear to have lost interest in the issue and have little appetite to provide additional leadership to save the spirit bear, the same cannot be said of the general public in BC, across Canada and around the world.
The public – especially young people – continue to demand for the conservation of this creature, a bear as unique to Canada as the Panda bear is to China. And with “The Spirit Bear” – a major Hollywood CGI animated movie – currently in production and slated for global released, there is more hope and greater opportunity today than ever before to save the Kermode.
If “The Spirit Bear” can help not only raise global awareness and support for saving the bear, but also generate the kind of money required to diversify and expand the coastal economy, there is no question more jobs can be created by saving the spirit bear than by developing its home. After all, the BC coast doesn’t suffer from a lack of job opportunities, but from a lack of investment, human resource training, and infrastructure.
However, in order for the movie to be the economic generator the BC coast so desperately needs, government leadership is required to bring all of the issue’s stakeholders together to help each understand what is truly at stake and what is truly needed to move forward together. Without this leadership, protecting the spirit bear, sustaining one of the most important carbon sinks in the world, and creating economic opportunity for generations to come will be lost.
Today, the world must come together as one voice and ask decision makers to save the spirit bear by protecting the final third of its critical wilderness – the Green-Sheep Passage/Tolmie watersheds – and ensure that all bears, black and white, are protected from trophy hunting. In doing so, the world can illustrate to elected leaders the magnitude of the opportunity that exists not only for the spirit bear, but for creating a model of environmental sustainability and underscoring the politics of possibility.
By helping save the spirit bear, people from all walks of life can work with decision makers to help ensure that these bears are truly wild and free for generations to come.
1) Sign the petition to stop the coastal bear trophy hunt
2) SMS text “NOTROPHYHUNT” to 21-21-21
3) Email, fax, write and/or phone BC Premier Christy Clark and your elected representative
4) Make a donation to the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition to aid our volunteer-run campaign
5) Join the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition’s new Adopt-a-Spirit Bear program
6) Forward this message to your friends and family and help us spread the word with an urgent call for action!
Thank you for your time, consideration, and support of our efforts to save the spirit bear. Together, we’ve come a long way and, together, we will save our spirit bear.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: The Case to Stop THIS Hunt