The Kermodei Bear -
A legendary mascot
The Kermode, also known as the Spirit Bear, ghost bear or Moksgm’ol in Tsimshian, is unique to the North Coast rainforest and sightings are rare. Even locals who have lived in the region their entire lives have yet to catch a glimpse of Terrace’s legendary mascot.
What makes this white bear so intriguing is that it is a black bear in every respect except for its bright coat of fur. One might think that the bears are albinos but the famous white fur comes from a recessive gene that both parents must possess for their cub to be white.
First Nations legends recall the Kermode as the spirit of the rainforest. Long ago, a raven changed the earth from snowy white to forest green but didn’t want to forget the past. So the raven changed every tenth black bear into a white one to remember the world the way it had once been.
As the city’s official mascot, you will find statues of the animal, all uniquely painted by local artists, on display throughout the downtown and along the Grand Trunk Pathway.
The North coast rain Forest
The lush habitat of the North Coast Rainforest is one of the most spectacular and ecologically diverse regions in the world. Common coniferous tree species in this region are the Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock and Red Cedar. About 100 species of vertebrates depend on the ancient rainforest for survival. The most common large mammals are the black-tailed deer, black bear, grizzly bear, gray wolf and mountain goat.
In the autumn, the forest floor sprouts a wide variety of wild mushrooms including pines, morels, golden chanterelles, king boletes, lobsters and oysters, making this region a very popular spot for mushroom pickers. Wild blueberries, bog cranberries, huckleberries and salmon berries can also be found in the surrounding forests. Many important plans for medical and spiritual reasons can be found in the area. Devil’s Club is highly prized by local First Nations for its healing powers.
Wild life & viewing ethics
Terrace and the surrounding region is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including grizzly bears, black bears (and the elusive Kermode Bear), moose, deer, coyotes, wolves, cougars, beavers, mountain goats, and more. Bald Eagles can be spotted most places, but particularly can be seen along the rivers and lakes. There are also over 100 unique bird species including the Canada Goose, Osprey and the Trumpeter Swan, a provincially blue-listed species. In late summer, salmon spawning turns many clear streams shades of pink such as Clearwater Creek and Williams Creek. And since the Skeena River leads to the Pacific Ocean, you may spot seals and otters in the river hunting for fish.
It is common to see black bears while driving along the highway and hiking the trails. While catching a glimpse of a bear or any species of wildlife is definitely a highlight for most travelers, please act responsibly to keep them wild and healthy and to keep yourself safe. Be sure you are familiar with bear safety techniques before any hike or backcountry activity. Don’t surprise or approach bears; bears will usually move out of the way if they hear people approaching, so make noise and hike in groups.
Each spring residents and visitors are treated to an unmatched display of aquatic ballet performed on the Skeena and Nass Rivers by local wildlife. Snow may be on the ground, but spring is definitely in the air! The river pulses with life as the return of the oolichan – a slender, silvery-blue fish – ushers spring in to the watershed. The run draws spectators, not to fish, but to experience the show that comes with it. Thousands of eagles, seagulls and more descend from above onto the river, dipping and diving after this glistening fish. From below, hundreds of sea lions and seals bark and pop up their heads from the icy, glassy surface. Then, they start to follow the fish, diving in unison. They head up the river, some travelling well over 100 km, to gorge on this small, oily fish as they migrate up the river to spawn.
Remember: This is bear country!
If you see a bear on the side of the road, give them lots of space. Roadside bears quickly become habituated to vehicles and people, and this can cause many problems for both bears and humans. Remember, they are wild! Always exercise caution; don’t feed animals or get too close. Moose can be aggressive, and all animals are unpredictable. Read safety recommendations before you head out. Stay alert, and move slowly and quietly.
Seeing a bear in the wild is one of the most sought after experiences in our national parks. It is truly a unique and remarkable sight. This rare privilege however, comes with the important responsibility of minimizing the impact of your viewing activities on vulnerable bear populations.