A bear cub has been attracting a lot of attention since it was discovered by a Whistler Blackcomb bear tour guide last week.
That’s because the cub, spotted gamboling about with its black bear mom, has a white fur coat.
Arthur de Jong, Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager for Whistler-Blackcomb Mountain, has seen the cub in person.
“The uniqueness of this cub is it’s not a pure white, but more of a caramel-cream, very light brown in colour.”
He says he immediately started to distribute photos to bear biologists to try to pin down the genetics.
But it’s not a Kermode bear or ‘spirit’ bear, as they’re also called, and likely a genetic anomaly.
That conclusion, says de Jong, is based on no identifiable pigmentation on the cub, and on its pink nose. Spirit bears have black noses.
For those reasons, de Jong says the cub is “absolutely” a black bear.
“It’s a result of probably recessive genes from both parents.”
He says the phenomenon has been seen before in the Rockies and Colorado, but it’s highly unusual.
The mom is a known resident bear who’s been seen in the Whistler area for the past four or five years, and now recently spotted with her white cub in the valley, on one of the golf courses, and on the ski trails while feeding on clover.
Though the cub looks healthy and strong, de Jong says it’s mating season right now, which is a challenging time for cubs.
“Because that’s when the males potentially can kill a cub, so fingers crossed on that one.”
About 50% of cubs won’t get through the first year.
“Hopefully, we’ll continue to see this cub on and off into its sub-adult and adult life, and we’re curious how the colour will change, if it will change at all.”
Until then, they’re holding off on giving it a nickname because, says de Jong, “our hearts may hurt to get too close until we see that it survives year one”.