My Waterton Spirit Bear

By May 16, 2017Wildlife Blog

‘What’s that white thing?’, my dad asked as we rounded the corner on the narrow mountain road.

‘That’s my bear!!!!,’ I exclaimed.

‘You’re kidding!?,’ my dad responded.

I wasn’t kidding. My dad was amazed – I had just told him about seeing her in a similar area as a yearling cub with her mom almost exactly a year before. I was really hoping to see her again.

The little blond bear, who I have subsequently named Spirit, allowed us to get close enough to see her milky left eye, a tell-tale sign that this was indeed the bear I photographed in the spring of 2014.

Spirit with mom, June 2014

She calmly grazed on the greens on the side of the road, only about 5 meters from the car. Being on the passenger side, my dad was in a much better position for photographs. He even got a ‘decent’ shot of Spirit with an old cel phone camera, equipped with a shockingly low number of megapixels.

My dad’s cel phone image of Spirit

I, on the other hand, had to painfully contort my body in order to get photos without leaving the vehicle, leading to an unfortunate elbow on the car horn. I felt horrible, but luckily Spirit did not seem too phased by the shrieking horn – she continued to nibble on the grass for a few minutes then sauntered off in to the woods.

My post-horn photo of Spirit, May 2015

What a fabulous experience! My dad and I were ecstatic – we had not only seen Spirit that day, but another cinnamon black bear and several adorable fox kits.

We saw Spirit in May 2015, almost two years ago. I saw various images of Spirit by other photographers throughout that summer, but I did not hear of her being seen at all in 2016. I thought of her often and was worried she did not survive her first year without mom. She was small and likely blind in one eye, both significant disadvantages for a young bear navigating the mountains for the first time on her own. But on a recent trip to Waterton, I saw her again…

It was a quick glimpse of her through the trees, resulting in only one ‘not-so-great’ image, but I was so happy to see her alive and well. Memories of the time I spent with her and my dad two years ago came flooding back.

Spirit, May 2017, looking a bit more cinnamon now, like her mom.

My dad passed away two months ago and I miss him dearly. I have no doubt Mother Nature sent me a gift in the form of a beautiful, blonde bear sighting that day in Waterton.  Spirit the bear is infused with my dad’s gentle spirit, a living reminder that he will always be with me.

Until next time, continue loving life and everything wild 🙂

Note: Despite what I named her, this blond bear should not be mistaken for the white Spirit Bear (or Kermode) found only in isolated areas on the north coast of BC.

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