Rare white bear genes less common than previously believed

The gene variant that gives Kermode bears their white color is less common in places that were supposedly hotspots for the bears. Credit: Maximilian Helm

A gene that dictates the rare white variant of black bears known in coastal British Columbia as Kermode bears is less common in places that were supposedly hotspots for the bears, according to new research. However, researchers also found the gene variant is spread more widely across the landscape. Kermode bears, (Ursus americanus kermodei), also known as spirit bears, are the official mammal of British Columbia, found in the central and north coast regions of the province. The white variant of the bears arises from a gene variant that isn’t related to albinism. First Nations groups and western researchers worked together from 2012 to 2017 to take hundreds of genetic samples taken from bear hair snags. They found that many of the places where the gene variant occurs weren’t protected, and that conservation measures weren’t sufficient, according to one of the researchers.

Read more at The New York Times.