Unique photographs of bears are at the Garden Valley Library are on the wall just inside the Library. The photos were taken by local photographer Linda Ruppel. Her travels have taken her to places where she gathers wildlife pictures, including the elusive spirit bear of British Columbia, Canada.
A spirit bear is a unique subspecies of the American Black Bear. It is said that only about 10% of the black bear population are these special white coated bears. Some scientists say this is caused by a recessive gene. They are not albino bears because the nose. claws, eyes and lips are dark in color. They are not related to a polar bear by genetics either.
“The bears can range in weight size of 125-175 pounds for females and 250-300 pounds for males. They are often about five or six feet tall,” Ruppel explained. A cub is often only one pound at birth. Bearlife.org gives more statistics of the spirit bear saying that the bears can live 20 to 25 years in the wild. The bears hibernate and give birth during that time, often having two cubs.
Going to the Library might be the only chance to ever see the spirit bear through photography. Their territory is a small coastal area in Canada. The highest concentration of the white bears is on the Princess Royal Island and Gribbell Island of British Columbia. These special bears are mostly visible during a few weeks in the fall. People who live in the region rarely see them. The bears are highly revered by the Native American culture and symbolize peace and harmony. They are also referred to as a ghost bear or a kermode bear. It is supposedly good luck to see a spirit bear.
Ruppel takes trips designed for photographers who want to build up their portfolio. These tours can last a week and travel to places not always available to many tourists. Sometimes she waits for a year or two with a reservation. Ruppel explains that often there are only six people on any given tour. She waited over a year to go on this trip to see the spirit bears. “People go on these very expensive trips knowing that they have a great chance of not even seeing the bears. I was lucky to see two on my trip,” says Ruppel.
On the trip to British Columbia, Ruppel says that travel was on a yacht type boat. She said that meals were prepared on their boat for six people and were exceptionally good. “We had a Master Chef cook for us. Traveling light was also important because of space. We could only bring a backpack that weighed 22lbs. Most of that weight was camera equipment. So, we had to pack carefully and limit what lens to use,” Ruppel explained.
There were so many other types of wildlife she was able to see on her trip including, orca porpoises, bald eagles, grizzlies and humpback whales. “I was fortunate to see those two spirit bears and get photos of them on that tour,” says Ruppel. The rest of us can go the Library and see the special spirit bear captured in a moment in time along with other bear photos by Linda Ruppel.