Spirit Bear Lodge – Reef and Rainforest Tours

Spirit Bear Lodge is an impressive waterfront property in Klemtu. Located within British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, this accommodation is an ideal base for discovering the wildlife highlights of this area. The exterior of the Spirit Bear Lodge pays homage to the traditional long houses built for thousands of years by West Coast First Nations, whilst the inside is modern and relaxing. The lodge strives to sustain the culture of the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people, whom have inhabited the area for many thousands of years, via youth initiatives and maintenance of traditional buildings such as the Big House in Klemtu where traditional song and dance is performed.

The lodge offers several different bear viewing tours, each of which offer both wildlife and heritage attractions. Guests travel with knowledgeable guides in small groups by motorboat, exploring the temperate rainforest and ecological wonders of Princess Royal Island, home to the world’s only Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy. Guests will be able to interact with the abundant wildlife and have an authentic experience with the cultural heritage of the region.

The Pacific Coast of BC is Home to World’s only White Coloured Black Bears. The Spirit bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) or moskgm’ol (white bear), as called by the Tsimshian Coastal First Nations, is thought by scientists to be a genetic variation of the black bear that roams throughout British Columbia. The Kitasoo Xaixais people, who have lived with these bears for thousands of years, have a myth about the white bears that says, “Raven made one in every ten black bears white to remind the people of a time when glaciers covered this land and how the people should be thankful of the lush and bountiful land of today.” Many of the Kitasoo Xaixais believe the Spirit Bears hold super-natural powers, hence the name Spirit Bear – a name that suits its mythical like presence. Scientists estimate there are less than 400 Spirit Bears in the coast area that stretches from around the northern tip of Vancouver Island northwards to the Alaska panhandle. On the large Princess Royal Island, there are approximately 120 Spirit Bears. Princess Royal Island is also the location of the recently created Spirit Bear Conservancy.

The Spirit Bear fascinates geneticists and wilderness lovers. Scientists, keen to isolate the gene that causes the white coat, are conducting DNA analysis on the bear so that they can determine how common it is elsewhere on the continent. They also want to determine whether the Spirit bear is a race or simply the product of a concentration of a gene in a given area. Researchers have been analysing fur samples from “rubbing” trees used by the bears and have set out snares across trails to capture hairs to examine for genetic information.

As well as the fascinating Spirit Bear, the Great Bear Rainforest is critically important for North America’s remaining grizzly bears – it is the most southerly coastal grizzly bear population remaining on the Pacific coast. The co-managed Fjordland Conservancy in Mussel Inlet is home to an abudance of Grizzly bears. They thrive here because they favour the lower slopes, river valleys, floodplains, and estuaries and they gorge on berries, grasses, devil’s club, insects, clams and salmon. The rich habitat of the Fjordlands area historically has produced large numbers of record sized bears (up to 500 kilos or 1100 pounds). Much of the Kitasoo/Xaixais territory including the Fjordlands has been protected, allowing guests to experience these bears in their natural environment.

Additionally, the number of black bears is high in wet climatic zones, such as the Great Bear Rainforest, where vegetation is more plentiful and access to spawning salmon in the rivers gives an abundant food source rich in important nutrients for winter hibernation. The current estimate of the black bear population in British Columbia is 120,000–160,000.

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