Guardians of great spirit of the wild

Innisfail's Discovery Wildlife Park obtains a rare white Black Bear

There is a great new spirit at the Discovery Wildlife Park zoo.

Muskwa, (pronounced muKWAH) a rare white Black Bear, along with her partner, Brunswick, a Black Bear, are making the Innisfail zoon their home for the next two to three years, until redevelopment at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg is complete.

The white Black Bear is also known as the Spirit Bear or Kermode Bear and is a sacred part of Native American culture. The bears are a subspecies of the American Black Bear living in the central and north coast of British Columbia.

Of the 750,000 Black Bears in North America only one tenth of the population has a white or cream-coloured coat.

Muskwa was born in the wild and was seen with her mother along a Manitoba highway in 2004.

Once travelers got a glimpse of the rare Spirit Bear they started to feed her mother to try and get a closer look at the cub.

Before long Muskwa’s mother was hit by a vehicle. She was then captured by government fish and wildlife officials and brought to the Assiniboine Park Zoo, where she has lived until now.

Doug Bos, owner of the Discovery Wildlife Park, said having the bear at their zoo enhances their bear safety program. He hopes the zoo can teach people about the different types of bears.

“A white Black Bear is very, very rare, and we are the only zoo to display a white Black Bear, a black Black Bear, and a brown Black Bear at the same time,” said Doug.

Doug also said that Muskwa and Brunswick are adjusting to the grass and dirt rather than their usual enclosure of cement.

“She is a little more stressed than what we expected she would be, but she is coming along very well and she has started to react to positive reinforcement,” said Doug.

Serena Bos, zookeeper and trainer at Discovery Wildlife Park, said they were happy to take care of Muskwa and Brunswick.

“Doing the favour for any other zoo is what you do, but because Muskwa was white it was a real cool experience to be able to display all three colours of bears at the same time,” said Serena.

Discovery Wildlife Park is the only zoo in Canada to offer full bear safety education programs. Serena said it was a key reason why it was offered the chance to take care of Muskwa and Brunswick.

“There are some zoos that do bear talks a little bit, but as for a full fledge bear safety education program we are the only one,” said Serena.

Serena is currently working with both bears on their training and hopes to get to an advanced level in the small time that they have together.

“She is a sweetheart, is very curious and I think she is going to be fun to work with,” said Serena.

For more information on Muskwa and other animals you can check out the Discovery Wildlife’s facebook page.