I’D TRACKED MANY Great Animals of the North over the last year, researching a book that would take me to every province and territory in the world’s second largest country. Polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba; beluga whales on Somerset Island, high in the Arctic Circle; moose in Newfoundland; the world’s only free-ranging herd of bison in the Northwest Territory’s Wood Buffalo National Park — a park bigger than Switzerland. As bountiful as bears, wolves, and whales are in Canada, the Kermode sits apart.
The “spirit bear,” as the Kermode is widely known, is protected by the First Nations in the Great Bear Rainforest, on the only two islands where it can be found. The Great Bear Rainforest, located on the coast of BC between Vancouver Island and Alaska, was established in the mid-1990s as a protected environmental region. It comprises 27,000 square miles of waterways and temperate rainforest, mostly in its natural state, abundant with wildlife.
It’s also an area that has come under threat with the proposal of the Enbridge Pipeline, which would pipe oil from Albertan tar sands to the BC coast, and turn this pristine wilderness into an oil supertanker highway. The issue has galvanized First Nations communities, travelers, liberals, and environmentalists. Here’s a small glimpse from my recent trip to the Great Bear Rainforest, and my search for the rare and elusive spirit bear.
[Editor’s note: Robin was a guest of the King Pacific Lodge.]