A newly discovered white grizzly bear near Banff has been named Nakoda after the Bow Valley Network received hundreds of suggestions from residents.
Nakoda means “friend” or “ally” in the native language of three Indigenous tribes in the area: Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley.
Parks Canada said the bear was first spotted in 2018 but made headlines at the end of April after a social media video gained traction.
Parks Canada said Nakoda is a three-year-old cub and has a brown sibling. The two tend to spend their time between Banff and Yoho national parks.
Nakoda’s unique white colour is believed to be caused by a natural colour phase variation, which Parks Canada said has never been seen in the Rocky Mountains before.
Seth Cherry, a wildlife ecologist with Parks Canada, said Friday that a white grizzly is not completely unheard of but it is very rare.
“It’s certainly the only one I’m aware of that’s been seen in our Rocky Mountain National Park, but throughout grizzly bear range, grizzlies are known to vary in colour from very dark to almost black. Your more typical colours are brown or blonde, but occasionally, you do see really light bears like this that look almost white,” he said.
“It’s always nice when people take an interest in our wildlife and can relate to it. This is definitely, definitely a special bear in that it is quite unique in being almost a white colour.”
Parks Canada will start offering limited access and services on June 1. Cherry stressed that when parks open, people should view animals from a safe and respectful distance.