Mum and cub.

Spirit bears are the focus of a nature television show this evening on CBC’s long-running Nature of Things, at 8 pm.

Those who travelled with us in the Great Bear Rainforest in 2014 will see a mum you may remember: the spirit bear mum with black cubs we visited on Gribbell Island last fall with Maple Leaf and Marven. She’s the star of the show.

Although her focus is looking after her little cubs, she’s a poster child for the genetics of spirit bears. She’s white, her cubs are black. All of them carry the spirit bear genes and could have spirit bear children. The white bears are protected from hunting. The black ones are not. And yet if the goal is to protect spirit bears, the black ones should be protected too.

And for those of us that appreciate bears for their bear-ness and not for the colour of their fur, we believe that all bears, which are not a prey species in nature, are deserving of life unthreatened by hunting.

Here are a few amazing photos taken by Phil Stone on one of Maple Leaf’s Great Bear Rainforest trips to this mum’s territory last fall.

Spirit bear mum with one of her black-furred cubs, taken at Gribbell Island with Maple Leaf Adventures' guides and Marven Robinson, 2014

Fishing (mum) and sort-of fishing (cub).

One theory about why spirit bears occur in such a concentration in the Great Bear Rainforest / Nass Valley area of British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast, is that they have a fishing advantage over a black-furred bear during the day. Why? Because to a salmon looking up from a riverbed, a white bear looks more like the sky. That’s thanks to Dr. Tom Reimchen, at the University of Victoria and his research in the area.

Viewing the bears fishing on a Maple Leaf Adventures expedition cruise with our expert bear guides and Marven Robinson of the Gitga'at nation.

Mum and both her cubs.