From the land of the Spirit Bear

We are in the midst of of a journey to Canada and have just completed the first leg of the trip to the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia’s Pacific West coast.  This was a stunning trip with a small but great group of other visitors and a fantastic team looking after us.  One of the goals was to see the rare Spirit Bears (i.e white, Black Bears) that live on this coast.  We were fortunate enough to see the first two spirit bears of the season on a couple of small rivers on one of the islands that scatter along this coast.  More info to follow as we are travelling right now but here’s a taster of these special bears.

We start with photos of each of the two spirit bears we saw, plus one of the ‘regular’ black bears.  (These are more or less picked at random as I’ve not got a lot of time today).  The spirit bears are not albino (note: they have dark, not red eyes of an albino).  Instead, the white coat is caused by a recessive gene in the regular black bear population.  There are estimated to be fewer than 500 spirit bears in a population of about 90,000 black bears.  This sub-population is thought to be almost entirely restricted to the North West coast of BC.  No wonder these bears are considered so very precious.  It was a true privilege to spend some time with these extraordinary animals. 

(Update 3 Oct:  I’ve now added a Spirit Bear Gallery here so you can enjoy a couple of sequences around the photos below)

Equipment: Pretty much my standard gear of a Nikon D500 plus Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6.  For a change the full 500mm was not always needed and quite number were shot in the sub 300mm range. However, there is not much light in on these woodland streams so I was using ISO settings generally between 1600-2000 and, at times stretching to 3200 or 6400 almost always at f/5.6 and shutter settings at a maximum of 1/1000 but more usually down to 1/500 and on occasions I had to resort to 1/160 or 1/200.