Ultra-rare white grizzly bear spotted near tourist resort in Banff National Park in ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

  • A pure white grizzly bear was seen near the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff
  • Park workers described white grizzlies as ‘exceedingly rare’
  • The white fur is caused by a recessive gene that’s rarely seen in the wild

An ultra rare white grizzly bear has been spotted near a tourist resort in Banff National Park in Canada.

Cara Clarkson, a worker at the nearby Rimrock Resort Hotel, spotted the bear while driving on the Trans-Canada Highway with her husband and two sons.

The white grizzly was with its sibling, a more typically colored brown grizzly as they were searching for food near the edge of the highway.

A worker at a resort in Banff, Canada spotted a white grizzly bear while out on a drive with her husband and two sons, something she described as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity’

While Clarkson said she would normally have driven by and not risked disturbing the bears, the sight of the white grizzly was a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity.’

“We were like ‘holy smokes! That is full on a white grizzly bear.’ Clarkson said in an interview with St. Albert Today.

Grizzly bears generally come in a broad spectrum of colors, from light blonde to dark black, but a pure white grizzly is ‘exceedingly rare,’ according to retired Parks Canada researcher Mike Gibeau.

‘I have never in all my time working with grizzly bears – since the early 1980s – seen a white grizzly bear,’ Gibeau said.

‘I’ve seen a really, really blond grizzly, but never a white one.’

Some initially speculated that the bear might have been an albino, but according to Gibeau that would also have changed the bear’s skin and eye color.

Instead, he says the white coat of fur is likely due to a recessive gene in the species that’s almost never seen in the wild.

‘It’s certainly the only one I’m aware of that’s been seen in our Rocky Mountain National Park,’ Parks Canada’s Seth Cherry told Global News.

Park officials had first identified the pair of grizzlies in 2018, when they were both cubs and the white bear appeared to be more blonde than white.

Some initially thought the bear might be an albino, but park researchers say if that was the case it’s skin and eyes would also have lacked pigment and appeared pale pink

According to Parks Canada workers, the white fur is caused by a recessive gene that’s almost never seen in the wild. ‘I have never in all my time working with grizzly bears – since the early 1980s – seen a white grizzly bear,’ Parks Canada’s Mike Gibeau said

At the time, the bears were feeding near a grain spill near train tracks running on next to the Trans-Canada Highway around 40 miles north of Rimrock Resort.

Park workers used a variety of hazing techniques to move the bears deeper into the park and away from areas with higher human populations.

Park officials believe the bears might have returned to the area  in search of food and used tall snow drifts from heavy winter snow to climb over the large fence that runs along either side of the Trans-Canada Highway to protect wildlife from traffic. 

Park workers believe the bear and its brown-furred sibling came down to the Trans-Canada Highway in search of food

‘This is a unique bear, and I certainly have never seen one before, but we ask people can appreciate that it’s out there and do things to ensure its safety, like not stopping on the highway,’ Parks Canada’s Jon Stuart-Smith said.

Stuart-Smith hopes the sightings will be temporary, and once the bears realize there are no major food sources left in the area they’ll relocate.

‘We hope they move onto other locations and then eventually move up into higher elevations,’ he said.

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