Vancouver Christmas

Sneak peek: Spirit Bear cub

Rhonda Nowak

A lot of people love polar bears. There are kids books about them, they're featured in ads for Coca-Cola, and scientists are trying to save them from the ravages of climate change. This, however, is not a polar bear.

I hope you're not too disappointed because what it is is even more special. This majestic, some say even mystical, animal is affectionately known here in British Columbia as a "spirit bear." It is a rare, white, sub-species of the Kermode bear, which is a variant of the North American black bear.

You'll see pictures of this bear on specialty licence plates for British Columbia to raise funds for B.C. parks. That's because Spirit bears live near the northern coast in B.C.'s Great Bear Rain Forrest. They are our official provincial mammal.

Estimates vary but indicate there are between 500 and 1,300 white Kermode bears alive. They have beautiful cream-coloured fur, tinged with orange. And they are often a little more "plump" than their black bear siblings & cousins. That's because when they're fishing for lunch, their white fur makes it harder for fish to see them so they catch more than the black bears. 

I designed this particular spirit bear after a young cub, and chose a pearl finish with copper highlights. The body and head are made from blown glass and the legs are molded from resin, allowing my cub to be in a "walking" position. The pearl and copper colour will make him "pop" against the green of your Christmas tree.

Legends of the spirit bear by indigenous people in the region say the bear is a reminder of days long ago when ice covered the land. The bears encourage us to be thankful for the lush beauty and bounty of the land we now enjoy. That thought brings me joy and puts my mind in a spirit of gratitude, which is appropriate at any time of year, but especially at Christmas.