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The Great Bear Rain Forest is protecting a special species of bear found nowhere else in the world

On the Northwest Pacific Coast is the planet's last large expanse of coastal temperate rain forest, and it’s home to the spirit bear.

There’s an area that is 32,000 km of temperate Rain Forest on the coastal region of British Columbia, where all types of animals ranging from BC’s famous salmon to massive, strong bears roam freely. Rich cedars and spruces act as skyscrapers to the animals on the ground and the mountains towering above the trees. 

The Great Bear Rain Forest is a protected paradise for all living species to live and thrive. But it has one especially rare inhabitant: the spirit bear.

This temperate rain forest starts on the Discovery Islands on the southern part of British Columbia’s coast and goes upward, including all offshore islands — except Vancouver Island and the islands of Haida Gwaii — to the BC-Alaska border. This large span of land contains of 6.5 millions acres of rich forests. This is the largest temperate rain forest in the world. In 2016, 85% of the forest became permanently protected from industrial logging.

The Kermode bear, also known as the “Spirit Bear,” is an extremely rare subspecies of the American black bear. There is an uncommon recessive gene inside some Kermode bears that make them appear almost albino with pigmented skin and eyes, but are not. To produce pale cubs both parents, white or black, must carry the gene that results in the white or cream-colored coat. About one in ten are pale — there may be about 100-500 alive at any given time. They can only be found in this rain forest. 

The Kermode bear thrives in this environment with spawning salmon coming right through it. It is 35% more successful than the black bear when hunting salmon because the fish avoid a black figure two times more frequently than a white figure. The Kermode brings great attention to this forest and also is the official mammal of British Columbia.

Bears aren’t the only animals that call this place home, of course. The Great Bear Rain forest is home to the highest wolf population density in North America that are much different to ones around the world as they have learned new ways and have adapted to the coastal element they live in. This forest is special because not many temperate rain forests are on coastal regions and for such a wide variety of  animals to change their way of living to these because of this is something very special. Wolves throughout the islands are gruesome predators having to face bigger prey sometimes even having to take on small black bears. 

The area is also known for its diverse marine life, especially its humpback and killer whales that come to these islands throughout the year to play and thrive on the rich food the coastlines supply. Sea lions, dolphins, porpoises and sea otters also come around these coastal waters. 

Unfortunately, animal populations are decreasing due to industrial hunting and whaling. However, around the North and Central coast of Haida Gwaii, the waters are fully protected by the government.

British Columbia’s Great Bear Rain forest is part of the largest intact coastal temperate rain forest on Earth. Many animals rely on these coastal forests as there a few left in the world, making them so important to our world and its fight against over hunting, logging and pollution.

Photo Credit: Maximilian Helm

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