There are still species in Canada — large mammals among them — that remain a mystery to the public and wildlife biologists alike. Take the glacier bear, which roams the remote patch of wilderness between extreme northwestern British Columbia, southwestern Yukon and the southeastern Alaskan coast.
They’re a striking silvery blue-grey colour phase of black bear even rarer than the white Kermode bear of the central British Columbia coast. Wilderness guides and photographers that work in their habitat can go their whole lives without encountering one, although as Canadian Geographic readers will find out in the upcoming January/February 2019 edition, some people have been lucky enough to photograph these bears, and scientific interest is growing.
Juneau, Alaska-based photographer Lance Nesbitt’s image of a glacier bear peering out from behind the trunk of an evergreen in Alaska’s enormous Tongass National Forest, which is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and northwestern British Columbia, won the regular reader cover vote for the issue with a commanding 55 per cent of the tally.
More than the alternative covers, the winning image appealed to readers both because of the personality evoked by the bear’s playful pose, and the way it seemed to fit with the main cover line: “The North’s elusive glacier bear.” The other options, a zoomed-in portrait of an adult glacier bear and another shot of a huge member of the species perched on a rocky slope, earned just 27 per cent and 18 per cent of the tally, respectively.
The winner, we hope, will inspire readers at newsstands across the country to learn more about the glacier bear, the challenges it faces in its habitat and the very small but growing body of research on its population, habits and rare genetic makeup.
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