Islands of the Spirit Bear

In the early 1990's Jeff and Sue Turner spent two years living on Princess Royal Island, an uninhabited spot of land off the coast of British Columbia with their newborn daughter Chelsea.  They had travelled there in the hopes of filming the 'spirit' bear, a rare white variant of the black bear that is commonly found in these largely undisturbed west coast islands.

On Princess Royal Island, the genetic variant  — the same one associated with red hair in humans — is quite common, about 10% of the bears are white. The white coat appears to give them an advantage while fishing for salmon during the day. Research has shown that white bears are successful at catching salmon in one-third of their attempts, compared to black bears which are successful only one-quarter of the time.

The bears that the Turners found living in this pristine landscape were completely wild and had never had any contact with humans. Without fear or aggression, the bears approached allowing the Turners to get incredible footage. Their first nature documentary, Islands of the Spirit Bear aired on the BBC in 1994 and a second, Trusting Bears, in 1995. See a clip from the shoot twenty years ago above.

The area has been designated by the BC government and the Kitasoo Nation as the Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy.