Rare white black bear believed to have been killed by wolves after being caught on Michigan trail camera
Black bears with white fur are not polar bears or albinos. Instead, they are the result of a one-in-a-million chance where both male and female parents that bred contained a recessive gene for white fur.
Not long after a Michigan trail camera caught one of the season's rarest images in a white-colored black bear, it's believed that the bear was killed by wolves.
According to a post shared by an Upper Peninsula trekking guide Facebook group, the bear was seen rummaging through bait in early September that had been placed by a hunter. Not long after the rare white black bear had been caught on the cameras, the Facebook group said they found the bear's remains.
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They believe a wolf killed the animal shortly after the rare bear was caught on camera.
"Our wolf population has devastated our big game populations in the U.P.," Yooper Outdoors #906 wrote in a Facebook chat to FOX News Digital.
Similarly, the Facebook group told FOX 2 that the person who owns the trail camera found pieces of what looked like white bear fur not long after the photo was shared online. The group also noted that they had not had a trail-camera picture of the bear since it was first captured in early September.
Officials with the Department of Natural Resources did not independently confirm that the large mammal was a black bear with white fur, but based on the images that were sent to them and other area reports, they are fairly certain. DNR has also not confirmed that the animal was killed.
"I thought it was just too cool," said Cody Norton, a large carnivore specialist with the DNR. "It's just exciting seeing an animal pop up like this here instead of somewhere else. We've had some cinnamon color phases show up, some blonde and chocolate on some trail cameras we use for surveys which is also really cool to see.
"But those are more common in bear populations. White is its own thing."
Norton told FOX 2 he estimated the bear was young, roughly 2 years old.
It was spotted in the western Upper Peninsula, where bears are most common in Michigan. It's about the only thing common about the sighting.
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Black bears with white fur are not polar bears or albinos. Instead, they are the result of a one-in-a-million chance where both male and female parents that bred contained a recessive gene for white fur, according to Norton.
When white-furred black bears are born in nature, it almost exclusively happens in western Canada where a subspecies of the American black bear lives. Called Kermode bears they reside on a collection of islands in the province. Between 10-20% of the population has white fur.
Sometimes people call them Spirit Bears.
Bear sightings in Michigan up
It's not clear if the bear that was spotted in Michigan has any genetic connection to the Kermode bears in Canada. DNR officials do investigate sightings of bears, cougars, and other large carnivores, but it doesn't normally seek out a bear to confirm its existence because of its color.
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Approximately 10,050 bears live in Michigan and 80% of those are in the Upper Peninsula. The population in both peninsulas has been rising since the state reduced the hunting quota for bears in 2012. Since that time, their numbers have climbed by 25% in the northern lower peninsula.