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Bear cub with unique white head spotted in Alberta

Thursday, June 18th 2020, 10:50 am - Grizzly bears are a hallmark of wilderness and experts say it is important for people to observe wildlife from a safe distance.

A family spotted a unique bear cub during their visit to Banff National Park on June 13 and experts confirm that this sighting is quite special.

The bear was with an adult grizzly and another cub with more typical colouring.

“I've not seen anything like this bear. I've studied grizzlies on the West Coast of Canada and in Arctic Canada but this is unique,” says Professor Andrew E. Derocher, Ph.D. from the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alberta.

Derocher says that the cub’s unique colouring is not likely related to its health and that it is “more likely just another variation in the coloration of grizzly bears.”

When asked if this cub could be related to the white grizzly bear, known as Nakota by locals, Derocher explains that he suspects there are more genes for white fur in this particular group of bears compared to groups of grizzlies that live in other areas.

grizzly cub white head alberta The cub with unique colouring was seen in Banff National Park on June 13. Courtesy of : Julia Turner Butterwick/Facebook

“There are not a lot of grizzlies in the area where these bears were seen, but we'd need to study the genetics of the bears to determine if there are any small population genetic issues. Regardless, colour in grizzlies is quite variable and most studies show that grizzlies are quite variable in their genetic make-up, so we wouldn’t expect a small population genetics issue as a conservation concern nor as the cause of the white-headed cub at this time.”

Bear safety is especially important during the spring and summer months when people spend more time outdoors and go camping. Grizzly bears are a hallmark of wilderness and Derocher says it is important for people to observe wildlife from a distance with binoculars to minimize disturbance.

“Too many people want to be too close to wildlife. There is a risk to both humans and wildlife. A bear that comes into conflict with people has a much larger chance of dying. If people leave this cub and its mother alone, its chances of survival are much better.”

Click here to learn more about bear safety from information provided by the Government of Alberta.

Thumbnail courtesy: Julia Turner Butterwick/Facebook

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