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A bear snatching a fish from the water is one of the most powerful scenes in the Canadian wilderness, and the remote coastal forests of British Columbia are home to one species that cannot be seen anywhere else on Earth. It is the kermode bear, a rare color mutation of black bear whose startling white colouration inspired the name “ghost” or “spirit bear” among the First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
This unique species inspired Royal Canadian Mint’s 2020 1.5 oz silver coin. A close look at the reverse will show just how much are and attention went into the design of this coin… the sheer variety of textures, from the snow to the salmon’s fins to the ripples on the bear’s fur – all captured in exquisite detail!
Take a look at this zoomed-in version of the coin to get an idea of just how brilliant it is:
Extreme close-up to show the delightful variety of details in this remarkably-designed silver coin
This coin is truly a joy to behold, and its meaty 1.5 oz silver weight gives it a pleasingly substantial feel in your hand.
Roughly ten percent of Kermode bears are white. They are not albino since their nose, eyes, lips and paws remain dark. Their white fur is caused by a recessive gene, one that must be present in both parents to be expressed. Studies suggest that white spirit bears actually catch more fish because their light-coloured fur is less visible against the sky. Because bears rely on delicious salmon to fatten up before winter hibernation, they carry salmon deep into the forest where other animals can feed on the carcasses before the marine nutrients are absorbed into the ground and ultimately taken up by the trees. This is just one way that an apex predator like the ghost bear supports an entire ecosystem’s health without even trying…
If you’re ever hiking in the wilds and you encounter an aggressive bear, here’s a little jingle I learned from an East Oregon wilderness guide…
If it’s brown, lie down.
If it’s black, fight back.
Brown bears aren’t interested in carrion, so if you can convincingly pretend to be completely dead, the bear might bat you around for a while and lose interest.
Black bears will eat anything that’s insufficiently threatening. If confronted by a black bear, make loud noises, stand tall, throw rocks and strike with a stick. Black bears will usually back down and go look for a less troublesome meal.
When I asked Doug (the guide) what to do if I encountered an aggressive polar bear, he shrugged and said, “Nobody knows.” Why not? “Because nobody’s ever survived an encounter with an aggressive polar bear, that’s why.”
So I appended my own third line to Doug’s rhyme:
If it’s white, say goodnight.
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