People in Whistler are speculating over the origins of the newest addition to the region’s bear population.
A white cub, around five months old, has been exploring the area with his mother, a well-known black bear.
It’s sparking plenty of questions among experts, who say they’ve never seen this colour bear in the area before.
“We keep very careful records within the ski area and never have we seen a cub of such colour before,” says Arthur De Jong, Planning and Resource Manager for Whistler-Blackcomb Mountain.
“It’s an off-white colour, a very, very healthy cub. With a known mother, a female that we’ve had in the ski area for 4-5 years.”
So how does this cub get his unique colour? It’s sparked a debate over whether the cub is a Kermode — better known as a “Spirit Bear” — or albino bear.
“An albino is a bear that has recessive genes and no pigmentation in their body anywhere. A Kermode bear is a white bear that has genes that makes its hair coat white, recessive genes, but also retains some pigmentation in its eyes and in its nose,” says Dr. Ken Macquisten, a veterinarian at Townline Veterinary Hospital.
Macquisten has studied bears for decades, and while he’s only seen this cub in pictures, he does know genetics are at play.
If it is a Spirit Bear, it would be the furthest south the endangered species — which numbers around 400 and is only found in British Columbia — has been found.
“I haven’t heard of a white bear being found this far south, typically they’re on the north and central coast of British Columbia,” said Macquisten.
– With files from Jennifer Palma