A B.C. woman had a once-in-a-life-time encounter with a rare Spirit Bear when she pulled over on Highway 16 near Terrace on Sunday.
“We were driving by and I happened to look and you could see his blonde furry hair. I did not know what it was at first,” says Terrace resident Tanya Ball.
The Spirit Bear, also known as Kermode bear, is a rare sub-species of the black bear.
They can only be found in the Great Bear Rainforest in north-west British Columbia.
Ball says she has never seen one in the wild before.
“It was laying on its tummy, rolling around in the grass, and was oblivious to everyone who was on the side of the road.”
The bear was just 10 feet away, but Ball says she did not feel threatened. She took numerous pictures and posted them on a local Facebook page called Terrace BC & Surrounding Area. She was surprised to find out just how rare her encounter was.
“I was born and raised here and still haven’t seen a Kermode bear!” wrote user Maggie Jo.
“After living there for 20 years hard to believe you can get pictures of these beautiful animals just driving by,” wrote Pat French.
Todd Lace of Moricetown, B.C. took a video of the same bear Monday morning.
PHOTO GALLERY: Rare Spirit Bear sighting near Terrace
B.C.’s Ministry of Environment said the bear has been frequenting the area for years and appears to be in good health. It has a routine of foraging in early spring and then moving to more lush areas during the summer.
There are also plenty of other wildlife in the area, although the government is warning viewers to use caution around the animals.
Conservation officers ask motorists to use caution when pulling over to get a better view at wildlife. In recent years, spring bears foraging along Hwy 37 and Hwy 16 have caused significant safety concerns with motorists by those who stopped and observed their behaviour, the ministry said in a statement.
“In their excitement, motorists forgot that they were causing a serious traffic hazard to both themselves and other highway users. Vehicle collisions have occurred and our concern is that someone is going to be seriously injured,” said Terrace conservation officer Dale Kluivers.
Wildlife viewers are asked to respect the animal’s space and not to approach them or feed them.
“Serious human/wildlife conflicts may occur if a bear fells threatened and this may result in injury to the public or destruction of the bear. In addition; feeding bears and other dangerous wildlife is an offence under the Provincial Wildlife Act. Bears that feed on non-natural food sources (eg human food) can easily become conditioned increasing the potential for conflicts with the public,” the statement said.