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Rare White Grizzly Bear Spotted

Jenn Smith

Posted on May 25 2020

A rare white grizzly bear has been spotted in Canada's Rocky Mountains.

A family out for a drive on a remote highway in Banff National Park came across the young white bear searching for food in the snow with a brown bear along the side of the road.

Cara Nelson, who shot video of the rare sighting last month, told CBC: "We're talking polar bear white. For us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Which is probably the only reason we decided to slow down and take a little bit of video of it, because normally we could come across bears on a regular basis."

The bear's white coat colour is down to genetics. Kris Hundertmark, assistant professor of wildlife ecology at University of Alaska Fairbanks, suggested that the white coloration in bears can be attributed to an unusual recessive gene.

A recessive gene would need to be present in both parents for the cub to have a white coat.

The white cub belongs to the grizzly bear subspecies and is different from the Kermode bear, or "spirit bear", which also have white fur caused by a rare recessive gene, and are a subspecies of the North American black bear.

In a statement, Parks Canada said: "The sub-adult grizzly and its sibling are known to Parks Canada and have been spending their time between Banff and Yoho national parks in Canada. These grizzlies are believed to be about 3.5 years old and this will be their second year away from their mother.

"The unique white colour is believed to be caused by a natural colour phase variation. Grizzly bears are typically brown, black or blonde, however there have been records of grizzly bears with a white colour phase variation. This is unusual for grizzly bears but has been seen before.

"Human and wildlife safety is of the utmost importance to Parks Canada. Observing wildlife in their natural habitat is a privilege that comes with a responsibility to treat wildlife with the respect they deserve and need. Keeping wildlife wild is a shared responsibility – we all have a role to play." The Independent