Bears are a common enough sight in the more rural parts of Michigan. But one white bear, dubbed the “Ghost Bear,” is a rarity even in an area known for its wildlife.
This video shows footage of the bear. It is the first time that one was caught on camera in nearly 20 years, according to the narrator of the video. These bears were once called “Spirit bears” by indigenous people in the region. They are extremely rare because, in order to occur, both the mother and father of the white bear have to pass on the gene that gives it the unique coloring.
The bear is roughly 100 pounds and is actually a Black Bear, Ursus americanus. But it is not an albino bear, just a bear that has white fur. Polar Bears also have white fur but are much larger and live near the Arctic Ocean. This is clearly a Black Bear with the rare gene for white fur. The photos were captured by a trail camera in Michigan. There were a few still photos of the bear in the dark, sniffing at a log. The daylight photos clearly showed the bear’s coloring.
White Black Bears are not common because the coloring makes it harder for them to blend into their environment, leading to a lower rate of survival compared to darker Black Bears. The gene that leads to this coloring is not present in the majority of the Black Bear population.
A Scientific Discovery
While they are called Black Bears, this bear species can actually have a wide range of colored fur. Black is the most common, but dark brown, tan, and even reddish fur are not as unusual as white. Some bears have different coloring around their noses and parts of their face.
The recessive white gene is more common in bears that live in parts of Canada. Seeing one in Michigan is an exciting opportunity for scientists. Not only is the sight amazing to behold, but it may also provide insight into the intermingling of different bear populations.