Kermode Bear skull

RBCM 5526
Scientific Name:
Ursus americanus

Kermode Bears, with their distinctive blonde fur, are unique to British Columbia. In the 1920s, they were shot for research, and at least one was caught illegally to smuggle south across the border. Today, they are revered and protected, also called Spirit Bears.

In 1924, a live cub was captured illegally, one of the specimens taken early in the flurry of activity to get a Kermode Bear to New York for live display, but later confiscated. It lived 24 years alone in a cramped cage in Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park. When it died in 1948, its skull and skin were added to our mammal collection.

The Kermode Bear lives along BC’s north coast and nearby islands. Many consider it a subspecies of American Black Bear, and early biologists thought Kermode Bears were albinos. Instead, genetics show they are merely blonde black bears. Dr William Hornaday of the New York Zoological Society tried to describe them as a full-fledged species, and proposed the name Ursus kermodei, in honour of Francis Kermode – then curator of this provincial museum.

Mounts of three adults are housed here at the Museum, and one of our specimens (RBCM 1369) was to serve as the species’ holotype.

This object selected by Dr. Gavin Hanke. View Profile »