The family of Clarkson’s was on their way on the Trans-Canada Highway, passing Alberta’s Banff National Park. There, accidentally they saw something unforgettable and incredible. “That is full-on a white grizzly bear,” stated Cara Clarkson. “We knew we were so lucky because white grizzly bears are unheard of.”

Cara’s husband, Tyler and their three year old son were celebrating their birthdays on the 26th April 2020 though the birthday of the son had been on the 24th. However, the final member of the family, 6-month-old Jak, was the fortunate person who was left in the car that day when they saw the Grizzly bear. The two bears were walking searching for food alongside the highway. One among them was ordinary while the other one was an extremely rare white coloured bear.

The White Grizzly Bear

“I don’t know of a white grizzly bear,” said Mike Gibeau. He retired from Parks Canada. There he has specialized himself in studying about carnivorous animals–and among them grizzlies have been the favourite of him. “I have never in all my time working with grizzly bears – since the early 1980s – seen a white grizzly bear,” he said. “I’ve seen a really, really blond grizzly, but never a white one.”

“It’s not an albino because an albino is something different again,” as per Gibeau.

Sarah Elmeligi who is an ecologist and a local bear expert agrees with Gibeau’s statement saying that the unusual colour of the bear isn’t because it’s albino. According to her, it’s a result of recessive genes. “As far as I know, this is the whitest bear ever seen in Banff,” she states. “They could be blonde or dark brown, but this bear isn’t even really blonde. It looks pretty white in the photos, so it’s extremely rare.”

The Banff Bears

The staff at Banff National Park have been observing the white grizzly bear and the sibling since 2017. Both the siblings have left their mother in 2017. The name of the rare white bear is Nakoda. Nakoda means “ally” or “friend” in indigenous languages of people of the Stoney Nakoda Nation.

According to the information gathered, the two bears are three-and-a-half years by now. The name of the mother is “Bear 156” but the father is yet unknown. Perhaps the name of the mother is strange for you. It’s because it’s not a real name. “Bear 156” is a designation. Mother bear was a part of a 2012-17 Canadian Pacific-Parks Canada study. The study was carried out in order to observe the mortality rates in relation to highways.

Apart from them, some other bears too can be seen in the Banff National Park. One among them is the Split Lip. It’s a cannibal and it eats smaller grizzlies too. The largest bear in the park is named as The Boss. The weight of it is over 660 lbs. The Boss too is a partaker in eating the other small ones.

Is Nakoda In Danger?

Jason Bantle, a biologist and photographer is frightened about the survival of Nakoda–especially because of its popularity. Bantle had seen many people trying to get the pictures of this rare bear. “As a nature photographer, it’s a fine line between getting images and making sure the individuals are conserved,” Bantle says. However, Parks Canada has been requesting people to be aware of the proper etiquette in wildlife photography. “Consider not stopping,” they say in a statement. “Bears and other wildlife that become comfortable around people and roadsides are at greater risk of being struck by a vehicle.”