The sighting took place in Banff National Park.

By Andrea Romano
May 26, 2020
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No, that’s not a polar bear you’re seeing.

An all-white grizzly bear was spotted in Canada’s Banff National Park, in the Rocky Mountains, according to Matador Network. The rare bear was seen by Canmore resident Cara Clarkson and her family, who took a video of the unique sight.

According to Matador Network, Clarkson was traveling with her son and husband when they came upon two bears one with a brown coat and the other that looks completely white.

“We're talking polar bear white,” Clarkson told the CBC. “For us, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Which is probably the only reason we decided to slow down and take a little bit of video of it because normally we could come across bears on a regular basis.”

According to The Guardian, grizzly bears typically have coats that range between dark brown and blonde. White bears, however, are considerably rare.

Experts say that the bear’s odd coloration is not due to albinism, nor is the bear a Kermode (a different species from the grizzly). Rather, the white fur is caused by a rare gene mutation.

Seth Cherry, a wildlife ecologist with Parks Canada, told The Guardian, “It’s definitely a pretty unique animal. I’ve never seen a white bear personally.”

Conservation biologist Mike Gibeau warned to the CBC that these rare sightings could be detrimental to the species. “These unusual looking animals get hunted ruthlessly by photographers, and so the less we talk about them, the better,” he told the CBC. However, with the coronavirus still impacting countries around the world, animals have fewer people to contend with in their natural environments — and hopefully, people will have a better appreciation of nature once the pandemic is over.

Nicholas Scapillati, head of the Vancouver-based Grizzly Bear Foundation conservation group, told The Guardian, “The science can explain why it happens and can give you percentages how rare this is — but that’s not why people are interested in this story. It speaks to our eternal relationship with nature. It’s rare and unique; people really look for meaning in these things.”

Clarkson has been intentionally vague about where, exactly, she and her family spotted the bear in Banff in order to protect it from too many tourists and photographers, according to the CBC.

But even if we can’t see it in person, we can still marvel at this special sight.