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Rare black bear with white coat spotted in UP

Maximillian Helm
Kermode, or 'spirit bears,' inhabit only British Columbia, says DNR wildlife specialist Rachel Leightner. The bear spotted on the trail camera would need a DNA test before any relationship is confirmed.

Caught on a trail camera, the rare bear has a white coat with cinnamon coloring around its neck.

It's the result of a double recessive gene, said Rachel Leightner, DNR wildlife specialist. The cinnamon in the coat is similar to the Kermode bear, also called the ‘spirit bear’.

She said those bears are a subspecies of the black bear only found in British Columbia.

“It would be really exciting to see this bear," Leightner said. "It certainly is one of a kind, and it’s difficult to know if we’ll ever see this kind of bear again.”

There is no legal protection for the bear in Michigan unlike British Columbia, Leightner said. The DNR is advising the public to not go looking for the bear. The DNR would like to analyze the DNA if the bear is harvested and see if it’s related to the Canadian Kermode species, she said.

Ben Jodway is an intern, serving as a reporter for WCMU Public Media and the Pioneer in Big Rapids. He has covered Indigenous communities and political extremism in Michigan.