Spirit bears, which are North American black bears with recessive genes that turn some bears white, eat mainly vegetation such as grasses, fruit, berries and nuts, as well as the shoots and buds from trees and other plants. They also eat ants, yellow jackets and bees and have a fondness for honey from beehives. In the streams and rivers of their natural habitat, they catch salmon and other fish.
Spirit bears, also called Kermode bears, mainly inhabit a number of islands off the coast of British Columbia, especially Princess Royal Island and Gribbell Island, as well as a stretch of coast from southeast Alaska to the mainland border of the United States. In the dense rainforests of the region, they find abundant food. According to researchers, spirit bears catch salmon 30 percent more easily during daylight hours than normal black bears, because their white color makes it more difficult for fish to see them. When salmon are plentiful, spirit bears have a tendency to gorge on them, storing up bulk for the harsh winter months.
Spirit bears are not albinos. The gene that turns some Kermode bears white is similar to the gene that creates fair skin and red hair in humans. It is possible for two black bears who mate to produce white bear offspring. About 10 percent of Kermode bears are white, and the others have standard black bear coloring. The total amount of spirit bears in the wild is less than 1300.