Spirit Bear JB1522 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1457 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1451 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1450 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1442 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1436 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1435 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1434 © Jim Backus 
Spirit Bear JB1400 © Jim Backus 

The Spirit Bear is a unique subspecies of Black Bear that has a light golden colored pelt. The only place the Spirit Bear is found is Princess Royal Island and the surrounding area in the Great Rainforest on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. Ten percent of the Black Bear in this area are the white Spirit Bear.

The small area of the world where these bear live is a maze of islands, rivers and fjords. It is home for not only the Spirit Bear, but also grizzly bears, eagles, wolves, and a number of different species of whales. These awesome creatures share their home with First Nation People who live in villages in the area. No matter where you go in this region, there is a photograph everywhere you look.

I had an opportunity to travel in this area of British Columbia with six other photographers in the fall of 2008. Home for us for eight days was a 71 foot sail boat with a crew of three: the Captain, his wife, and his 11 year old daughter! The trip took a number of years of planning. My interest in the Spirit Bears was initially piqued in 2001 when I saw a PBS documentary on them. I did some research and spoke with Charlie Russel, the author of a book about Spirit Bears. Mr. Russell suggested I contact Tom Ellison of Ocean Light II for information about trips in the Princess Royal Island area of the Great Rainforest. Tom Ellison was an excellent guide; he brought us to within 20 feet of the bears. I had read of people who had spent two years tracking the Spirit Bears with no luck, so it was really awesome to be able to see one within two hours of getting on the boat. In the days that followed we saw more Spirit Bears as well as whales, grizzly bears, and eagles.

The First Nation views animals with deep respect and admiration. They revere the Raven above all other creatures of the animal kingdom. According to legend, at the beginning of time the entire world was white because it was covered with ice and snow. The Raven came from heaven and covered the world with vegetation so that it would be green, as it is now. But the Raven wanted something to remind himself of the icy wasteland of the beginning of time. So, on an island, where people have never lived, he went among the black bears and gave every tenth one a white pelt. That way, Raven could look at them and remember the world as it was before he altered it. Then the Raven issued a decree allowing the white bears to live forever on this island in peace. This is known as the Raven’s Guarantee. Eagles, bears, ravens, wolves and whales all play significant roles in the First Nation legends that help to make up the history of the Great Rainforest.

The photographs you see are only a small representation of the eight days of shooting photographs. I hope you enjoy viewing these photographs as much as I enjoyed taking them. Please feel free to share with me any comments you might have. In order to preserve the ecosystem of the Great Rainforest and its beautiful animals and landscapes for generations to come, it needs to be protected from logging and hunting. To this end, 10% of all sales of my photographs will go to Pacific Wild, an organization created by Ian McAllister, author, conservationalist and photographer.

Jim Backus

About the Photographer

Jim Backus

“I try to share my love for nature and the world we live in through my photographs and I hope that you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoy taking them.”
- Jim Backus

Contact Information

Magoo Nature Photography
4224 Lassek Court
Eau Claire, Wisconsin 54703
(715) 579-8423

Contact Jim by email