British Columbia's Gitga'at First Nation believe that the raven, creator of the rainforest, turned every 10th black bear white as a reminder of the last ice age. Geneticists understand that the white coat is the result of a double recessive gene in black bears. No one knows why the spirit bear (known locally as Moksgm'ol) only exists in a small part of Canada's Great Bear Rain Forest. It's just one of nature's miracles.
Estimates of how many spirit bears exist vary. Some scientists believe there may be as many as 400. Some believe there may be as few as 200. This makes them more rare than a giant panda - and harder to find. My journey to find a spirit bear involved two plane flights, a ferry ride, a float plane ride, two zodiac trips, multiple nights on a boat, and a long hike through a rain forest. I'd willingly travel twice as far to get another glimpse of these majestic animals. Photographing this bear was, by far, the most profound thing I've done with my camera.
Sadly these ghosts of the forest are at risk. Our continued thirst for wood and fossil fuels threaten the Great Bear Rain Forest. One way to help is to support The Nature Conservancy in their work to protect and preserve this ancient wilderness.