It’s not everyday you come across a white black bear.
But when Alberta wildlife photographer Abdulla Moussa did, he was ready to photograph the moment.
Moussa captured these stunning pictures of the rare cub, alongside its cinnamon-coloured mother and two jet-black siblings, while hiking in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country last week.
“I just started to go for a hike in a new area that I had been to before,” Moussa told Huffpost. “And like 15 minutes into the trail, I noticed some rustling up ahead coming from the bushes.”
Moussa paused on the trail, and watched as a light-brown mother bear and two black cubs emerged onto the trail ahead of him. The family didn’t seem to notice him.
“At that point I was thinking ‘Wow, that’s pretty neat’ — a cinnamon-coloured mom and cubs that are black,” he said. “But then blew me away when I saw another one come out.”
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The third cub was a striking white-blonde. Moussa was able to quietly pull out his camera and snap a few shots of the tri-colour family without them noticing. He says the mother and cubs looked just to be passing through the area, and didn’t seem bothered by his presence.
For Moussa, though, it was an exciting moment.
“White black bear cubs don’t come around too often, so that was definitely unique,” he said.
Not a “spirit bear”
There is a subspecies of white black bears found in coastal regions of B.C. known as the Kermode bear or “spirit bear.” But the cub Moussa photographed is likely just a genetically normal black bear who happened to be white.
Another white bear was spotted in the same area in 2017. Sarah Elmeligi from Alberta Parks told CTV at the time that white black bears are completely normal, genetically.
“This is just like not all cats are tabbies, some are black and white and some are orange, this is the exact same phenomenon,” Elmeligi said. “This is just a colour differentiation in this particular bear.”
Be wildlife aware
Moussa says the white cub is definitely a highlight of his experience photographing wildlife. But he says it’s important people who want to capture shots like that remember to do it in a way that’s safe for both the photographer and the animal.
“Make sure that you’re giving the animals their space, watching for signs of distress,” he told HuffPost. “And we can’t put the photo or the video above everything else. It’s really about the animal first and foremost.”
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