How The Kermode Bear is Affected by Logging


The following Comprehensive 31 page Report on How The Kermode Bear is Affected by Logging; circa 1997
is somewhat dated, as it was written before the Great Bear Rainforest was set aside as a protected area from over logging. It is however, FULL of great information on the Kermode Spirit  Bear;

D.A. Blood
May, 1997

Prepared for: Western Forest Products Limited
2300 – 1111 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, B.C. V6E 4M3



 A preliminary assessment of potential impacts of logging on the Kermode bear was prepared by D. Blood and Associates for Western Forest Products Ltd. Emphasis was on the TFL 25 portion of Princess Royal Island.

 2.0 THE KERMODE BEAR2.1 Taxonomy
Description of the subspecies of black bear (Ursus americanus) in B.C. is based on cranial characteristics of relatively few specimens, and the species is in need of taxonomic revision using modern techniques. There is general agreement that the subspecies kermodei occurs from the vicinity of Burke Channel to the Nass Basin. The name U.a. kermodei (Kermode bear) applies to both white and black phase individuals within that area.

 2.2 Characteristics
2.2.1 Pelage Color in Ursus americanus
In addition to the widespread black phase, brown (cinnamon), honey, blue, and white (non-albino) color phases have been described. The frequency of expression in all cases is genetically determined. The white phase is the most distinctive in terms of contrast with the usual black coloration.

 2.2.2 Characteristics of White-phase Kermode Bears

 The pelage is white to the roots over the entire body, but the eyes, and the skin of the nose and soles of the feet, have pigmentation like black-phase bears. A reddish tinge in some white-phase individuals is attributed to foraging in organically stained water. In contrast to the mountain goat, for example, white pelage in black bears is unlikely to be of adaptive significance.

 2.3 Distribution and Abundance

 Available records of specimen collections and sightings have been mapped. These suggest a clumped distribution pattern, with concentrations near Terrace and on Gribbell and Princess Royal Islands. However, this may in part reflect the distribution of collectors and observers. A white to black ratio of 1 to 8 and a total population of 130 to 150 bears has been suggested by other workers at Princess Royal. That ratio appears realistic, but we believe Princess Royal could support more than 150 bears.

2.4 Ecology
White and black phase individuals are not expected to exhibit any differences in basic ecology, behavior, or life-history. At Princess Royal Island it is presumed that green herbage, berries and salmon are seasonally important in the diet of both black and white bears and that old-growth structures are used for denning.

3.1 Effects on Plant Forage

Literature review indicates that black bear populations have responded positively to early seral stages created by logging in various parts of North America. Although not generally quantified, it is predicted that such responses will be followed by declines to pre-logging or lower levels, depending upon how much of the total landscape is in the dense second-growth stage at any one time.

 3.2 Effects on Forage Fish

Several authors have suggested that logging is at least partly the cause of recent declines in spawning salmon abundance in B.C., but quantitative evidence is sparse. Commercial catches are more likely to blame, and over the past century have undoubtedly reduced to a considerable extent the biomass of spawners that would otherwise have been available to bears.

 3.3 Effects on Denning Sites

 It can be predicted that, in areas where old-growth structures are the usual denning sites, logging will cause the availability of such structures to decline over time. Den site availability will depend on the percentage of total old-growth removed and on management practices. There appears to be no evidence that logging to date in the Pacific Northwest has reduced bear populations by causing a shortage of den sites, but such effects could take decades to materialize.


 4.1 Characteristics of the Island

 The 2,250 km2 island has a subdued western part (Hecate Lowland) and a rugged eastern half with summits to 1250 m (Kitimat Ranges). About 90% of its area is in the Coastal Western Hemlock Zone, 10% in the Mountain Hemlock Zone. On much of the island forest stands are poorly developed due to slope steepness, bedrock exposure and boggy terrain. The island has at least 27 salmon spawning streams, and spawning runs of sockeye, chum, pink and coho salmon. Good black bear habitat is present over most of the island.

 4.2 Potential Logging Activity in Tree farm License (TFL) 25

About one third of Princess Royal Island (76,000 ha) is in TFL 25, of which 55% is classified as forested. The 19,490 ha of the TFL that is operable comprises only 35% of its forested area. Due to the relatively large land area involved, various seral stages will be widely dispersed on the landscape and over time. About 65% of the present mature and old-growth forest will be retained as Riparian Management Areas, Wildlife Management Areas, and Forest Ecosystem Networks.

 4.3 Potential Effects and Planned Mitigation

Potential effects of logging at Princess Royal on the availability of bear foods (green forage, berries and fish), escape cover and denning sites are examined. Other potential effects such as loss of population connectivity, undesirable habituation, increased hunting mortality and loss of viewing opportunities are also considered. Critical review suggests that logging can be carried out in the TFL 25 portion of Princess Royal Island without adverse consequences on the survival or population size of Kermode bears. However, changes in the ratio of white to black bears cannot be ruled out. WFP has previously recommended that TFL lands around Mellis Inlet be preserved for public viewing of white bears and other wildlife in a natural setting.


The protection of Kermode bears and their habitat will receive high priority in WFP’s Total Resource Plans for Princess Royal Island. Forest Practices Code requirements and special management measures should ensure that logging does not cause any decline in bear population levels. Long term survival of Kermode bears is not believed to be dependent upon the establishment of large wilderness reserves.





Acknowledgements 1
2.1 Taxonomy 1
2.2 Characteristics 2

2.2.1 Pelage color in Ursus americanus 2

2.2.2 Characteristics of White-phase Kermode bears 4

2.3 Distribution and Abundance 5

2.4 Ecology 7


3.1 Effects on Plant Forage 8

3.2 Effects on Forage Fish 9

3.3 Effects on Denning Sites 10


4.1 Characteristics of the Island 11

4.2 Potential Logging Activity in TFL 25 13

4.3 Potential Effects and Planned Mitigation 15

4.3.1 Effects on Green Forage and Berries 15

4.3.2 Effects on Fish 15

4.3.3 Effects on Escape Cover 15

4.3.4 Loss of Denning Sites 16

4.3.5 Effects of Habitat Fragmentation 16

4.3.6 The Problem of Habituation 16

4.3.7 Potential Hunting Mortality 17

4.3.8 Potential Shifts in the Ratio of White to Black Color Phases 17

4.3.9 Effects on Viewing Opportunities 17




APPENDICES following page 22


1. Area of forested land and of operable stands in TFL 25, Princess Royal Island 14

1. Distribution of the Kermode bear (Ursus americanus kermodei) 3
2. Specimen records and sightings of white-phase Kermode bears map pocket
3. Biogeoclimatic zones and TFL 25 boundary, Princess Royal Island 12

1. Specimen records and sightings of white Kermode bears.
2. Miscellaneous published comments on distribution and abundance of white-phase Kermode bears.
3. Population density estimates for black bear populations in western North America.
4. Published records of black bear den sites.
5. Salmon escapement estimates, Princess Royal Island, 1974-1985.

The White-Phase Kermode Bear, with Particular Reference to Princess Royal Island, British Columbia


Little scientific information is available on the Kermode bear. The highest incidence of occurrence of white-phase individuals within the range of this subspecies of black bear is apparently on Princess Royal Island. Concerns have been raised that logging on that island could adversely affect the Kermode bear (Bergdahl, 1995; Russell, 1994; Valhalla Wilderness Society, 1995). Western Forest Products Ltd. (WFP) plans to initiate logging in the TFL 25 portion of Princess Royal in the near future, and is also concerned about the welfare of Kermode bears. To evaluate this matter, WFP asked wildlife consultant D. Blood to critically review available information on the Kermode bear, to assess the likelihood that various postulated impacts would occur, and to recommend measures for impact avoidance if and where they might be needed. This report is the result of that review.

Author’s acknowledgements

I am greatly indebted to A.N. (Tony) Hamilton, B.C. Wildlife Branch, for provision of historical reports on Kermode bear occurrence, other black bear literature, and preliminary results of the Nimpkish Valley black bear study carried out by Helen Davis under his direction. Tony’s 1995 (draft) review “Kermode Bears in British Columbia” provided indispensible background for the present review. Considerable file information on the Kermode bear was made available by consultant Patrick Armstrong. I thank Bruce Cousens, J.C. Lee and Associates, Nanaimo, as well as Gordon Miller, librarian at the Pacific Biological Station, for salmon spawning data. Bill Dumont and John Barker of WFP provided recent white bear sighting records, forest cover mapping and preliminary harvest planning information for the TFL 25 portion of Princess Royal Island. A draft version of the report benefited from critical review by Dr. Rob Wielgus, Faculty of Forestry, University of B.C. and Dr. John Barker, Western Forest Products. Opinions given in this report, unless otherwise stated, are those of the author.

2.1 Taxonomy
The black bear (Ursus americanus) is very widespread in North America (Alaska to Newfoundland and south to northern Mexico and Florida), and in British Columbia where it occurs throughout the province including the Queen Charlottes and other coastal islands and is absent from only a few heavily settled areas. About 16 subspecies (also commonly reffered to as varieties or races) are presently recognized, based primarily on pre-1950 studies of cranial and dental morphology (Hall, 1981). The validity of some of these subspecies is questionable. About 10 subspecies occur in Canada, 5 or more in British Columbia. In their typical black pelage, individuals of all the subspecies look very similar and could not be reliably differentiated in the field.

In British Columbia, the confused state of black bear taxonomy is illustrated by the subspecies mapping of various authorities. Banfield (1974) indicates the presence of 8 subspecies, Hall and Kellson (1959) show 7, and Cowan and Guiguet (1965) 5 or possibly 6. However, all of the above show a relatively similar distribution range for U. a. kermodei (Figure 1). The more recent review by Nagorsen (1990) follows Cowan and Guiguet (1965) and lists 5 subspecies, noting also that the blue or glacier bear (emmonsii) could occur in the extreme northwest corner of the province.

A modern taxonomic analysis using biochemical genetic variation to discriminate between populations would probably result in re-mapping of subspecies distributions in B.C., and possibly in more or fewer races than are currently recognized. Based on present knowledge, the subspecies of U. americanus occurring in the Princess Royal Island area is U. a. kermodei, but description of this taxon has been based on relatively few skulls and it is weakly differentiated from adjoining subspecies, except from the Queen Charlotte Islands race carlottae which is the most strongly differentiated of all.

Mapping of the distributional limits of kermodei (Figure 1) has apparently been based on inclusion of all or most localities where the relatively rare white color phase (commonly referred to as the “Kermode” Bear) has been reported, as well as on skull measurements (Cowan and Guiguet, 1965). The validity of this subspecies then is based on skull and dental characteristics described by Hall (1928), and by the occurrence of white-phase individuals. The trinomial U. a. kermodei properly applies to both white and black-phase bears within the range of the subspecies. It should be noted too that the boundaries between kermodei and other mainland races are probably clinal in nature rather than sharp lines, and that a few non-albino white-phase bears have been recorded in British Columbia outside the range of kermodei (Hamilton, 1995).

2.2 Characteristics

2.2.1 Pelage color in Ursus americanus

Although black is predominant, a number of color-phases have been described from across the range of the black bear in North America. Bears in Boreal and eastern North America are almost entirely black, but brown or cinnamon individuals become increasingly frequent in the Western Plains, Rocky Mountains, and southwestern United States. In a few arid areas the brown phase predominates, and a few honey-colored bears also occur (Cowan, 1938; Piekielek and Burton, 1975). Along the moist Pacific Coast the brown or cinnamon phase is unknown, but a few white-phase (Kermode) bears occur on the central B.C. coast, and rare blue-phase individuals occur in the St. Elias Mountains area of Alaska, possibly extending into extreme northwestern B.C. Occasionally, true albinos may occur anywhere in the species range.

The preponderance of black-phase bears in moist environments, and frequency or dominance of brown or honey colored ones in arid situations is in agreement with Glogers’ Rule which states

Figure 1
Figure 1
that (in warm-blooded species) “… black pigments increase in warm and humid habitats, reds and yellow-browns prevail in arid climates…” (Kendeigh, 1961). These color trends are not believed to confer survival advantage in terms of concealment because the black bear has few natural enemies from which it needs to hide, and cryptic coloration is of no advantage for a species which is largely a vegetarian. However, in hot environments lighter coat colors (e.g. cinnamon or honey) may aid in temperature regulation.The occurrence of white, brown/cinnamon and glacier (blue) phase individuals is known to have a genetic basis, because cubs often differ in color from their mothers and from litter-mates, and because intermediate colors (between white and black or between brown and black) generally do not occur. Some other color phases like the honey color are probably also genetically determined. As many as 10 genes may control coat color in black and grizzly bears (Little, 1958).

The White (Kermode) bear then, is one of several genetically determined color phases of the black bear in North America, but undoubtedly the most distinctive in terms of contrast with the usual black phase.

2.2.2 Characteristics of White-phase Kermode bears

 The pelage of white-phase Kermode bears is white over the entire body, sometimes lightly suffused with tints of buff to light orange. The claws are dull-white; the unhaired soles of the feet and toes, and tip of the nose (rhinarium), are dark brown to black. Hornaday (1905), who provided the first scientific description of white-phase kermodei, stressed that for the type specimen (from Gribbel Island) “The hair is all white, down to the roots; and on the entire animal there is not one brown or black hair”. Allen (1909) examined two additional specimens from Gribbel Island, and noted that “These specimens differ considerably in color from the type of the species … both having the whole top of the head yellowish rufous, and the back, in one of the specimens, conspicuously varied with bands and irregular patches of light golden rufous”. Allen speculated that although the buffy suffusion could perhaps fade, “… the rich rufous tint of the head could hardly thus disappear”. Buff to light orange tinting is apparent in some of the excellent photographs of Princess Royal Island Kermode bears in Charles Russel’s book (Russell, 1994). In fact, the orange tinting is probably staining that results from foraging for fish in streams that are organically stained with humic acids and related compounds. This staining would become accentuated during the fish-feeding period (July-October) and be most highly developed in the fall, which is the time of year Allen’s (1909) orange-tinted specimens were taken. The tinted hair would presumably shed during the single annual molt which occurs in spring (Banfield, 1974), and early summer specimens would have the whitest coats. According to Allen (1909) Hornaday’s all-white specimens were taken in May. It is also possible that orange tinting varies from place to place, depending on whether or not the streams in which the bears feed are stained. Similar staining of the heads and necks of trumpeter swans which winter in the Queen Charlotte Islands has been noted, and this is probably the best explanation for the bears. It is very doubtful that any are born with such coloration.

As noted by many authors, the white-phase Kermode bear is not an albino, since the eyes, snout etc. are darkly pigmented. However, based on discussions with U.S. researchers, Hamilton (1995) suggested that the Kermode condition may result from a mutation at the bear homologue of the “pink-eyed dilution” or “p” locus which results in light-colored pigmentation but not in pink eyes. In other words, it may have a genetic cause that is similar to true albinism. A similar condition in man, known as “Type II Oculocutaneous Albinism results in very light skin, yellow to ginger colored hair, blue to grey eyes and, in common with all other forms of albinism, vision problems” (Hamilton, 1995, based on his communication from Dr. M. Brilliant). It should be noted however that white-phase Kermode bears do not have light-colored skin, and probably do not have vision problems. They are able to spot and capture fish as readily as are black-phase individuals, and any significant vision problems would be rapidly selected against in nature. Therefore, the mechanism of inheritance for white pelage may not differ significantly from that for the cinnamon phase.

It has been suggested by some authors that the white mutation may have arisen in response to a glacial environment and have been adaptive in terms of survival advantage. This seems highly unlikely because black bears are so forest-adapted, and because they hibernate during the snowy season. Under present conditions, the white coat color certainly would not seem to have any selective advantage. This is in contrast to species like the mountain goat, Dall sheep and polar bear, where white coloration does have adaptive significance. It is probable that the white mutation did arise in a relatively isolated population, likely in the vicinity of Hecate Strait, and has maintained itself in greatest abundance in sites that are still relatively isolated, i.e. islands like Princess Royal and Gribbel. On the mainland, its expression is undoubtedly diluted by gene flow from predominantly black-phase populations peripheral to the range of kermodei.

2.3 Distribution and Abundance
As noted earlier, the boundaries of distribution of the subspecies U.a. kermodei are rather indefinite, particularly to the north. Historical records of occurrence of white-phase individuals within the subspecies range are shown on Figure 2 and listed in Appendix 1. These records are from historical and recent written accounts and informants, and include both specimen records (primarily 1898-1915) and sightings (mostly 1975 to present). The early records were mostly published in Hornaday (1905) and Allen (1909), but include hand-written notes of Francis Kermode, kindly provided to D. Blood by A.N. Hamilton (indicated as Kermode, 1913in Appendix 1). Some of the location records are quite specific (e.g. Gribbell Island), while others are very general (e.g. “the Nass country”). We have attempted to avoid duplication caused by the reporting of the same specimens or sightings in more than one report. It should be noted that some of the map symbols (Figure 2) represent more than one bear taken or seen at that locality (actual numbers are given in Appendix 1). Despite the above limitations, Figure 2 provides a reasonable indication of the distribution of white-phase Kermode bears, and a basis for further documentation.

The currently available information indicates a somewhat clumped distribution pattern of white bears, with concentrations in the vicinity of Terrace, and on Gribbell and Princess Royal Islands. However, this pattern is in part due to the distribution of bear observers or collectors, and the actual distribution of white bears is probably more uniform than depicted on Figure 2. Based on comments made by Hornaday (1905) and Allen (1909), significant numbers of white bears were shot around the turn of the century in the Nass and Kitimat Arm areas (Appendix 2), therefore Figure 2 may not accurately represent their occurrence in those areas. It is also possible that hunting and collecting activity in the first half of the century, when regulations were few or ignored and many people were “on the land”, may have had a long-term impact on abundance of the white-phase in some areas.

The large number of sightings in the Terrace area is of interest, and is probably attributable in part to the concentration of people in that area, the attraction of bears from a wide area to the town landfill (where repeat observations of the same bear may occur), and resulting publicity such as magazine articles. However, it is also of interest that similar sightings have apparently not been made in the Prince Rupert or Kitimat areas. The significant number of specimen collections at Gribbell island is also of interest. At least 11 white-phase bears (Appendix 1) were apparently collected there between 1898 and 1913. This island is only 200 km2 in size, has only 1 or 2 small salmon-spawning streams, and would not be expected to support a total bear population of more than 50 individuals. White bears still occur there, as one was photographed at Gribbell in 1996 (W. Dumont, pers. comm.). It is also of interest that despite the number of records for Gribbell, none have apparently been reported on adjacent Hawkesbury Island, which is twice the size.

In recent years most white bear sightings have been on Princess Royal Island, particularly at Laredo Inlet, although records indicate that they occur throughout the island. Many additional sightings (e.g. by DFO patrolman Doug Stewart) have been made at Princess Royal but are not indicated on Figure 2. Historical collection records also occur for Princess Royal. In 1996, the first recorded sightings of white-phase bears were made by loggers at Roderick and Pooley islands, bringing the total number of islands having some record of their occurrence to 6 (Pooley, Roderick, Princess Royal, Swindle, Gribbell, and Pitt). Documented mainland records south of the Terrace-Kitimat area appear to be few – only Khutze River, Cascade Inlet, and South Bentinck Arm.

The total number of white-phase bears present on Princess Royal Island or throughout the range of U.a. kermodei is not known. Total bear populations (black and white) can be estimated from densities determined in intensive studies in other areas. Black bear population densities for a number of sites in western North America are given in Appendix 3. It should be noted that most of those studies were in areas of good and relatively continuous bear habitat, and cannot be extrapolated directly to large areas which contain unsuitable habitat such as barren alpine terrain. Taking this into account, the following minimal populations have been estimated for the total range of U.a. kermodei and for Princess Royal Island:

Land unit Area Available habitat Bears per Estimated
(km2) % km2 100 km2 total population


Subspecies range 75,000 50 37,500 25 9,375
Princess Royal Isl. 2,250 75 1,688 25 422


The proportion of the bear population which has white pelage undoubtedly varies across the range of U.a. kermodei. Based on his own observations and reports of other people, Russell (1994:134) estimated a ratio of 1 white to 8 black bears at Princess Royal (possibly 1:5 in one valley), 1:40 in the Terrace area and 1:100 at Hazelton. Those ratios appear to be realistic. Fisheries officer Doug Stewart, who counted spawning salmon at Princess Royal for 17 years, estimated a total of 5 to 15 white bears among 135 or so black bears at Princess Royal (in Marty, 1994), and felt that about 10% of the Princess Royal bear population was white (in Robinson, 1991). Russell (1994:134) and his co-workers reported seeing 9 different white-phase Kermode bears at Princess Royal during 3 seasons of filming (1991-93). Since most of their work was in the Laredo Sound-Laredo Inlet area, the total island population can be assumed to be higher than 9. They estimated 9 to 20 white bears to be present on the island.

We estimate, based on habitat availability and population densities in other areas (Appendix 3), that 400 or more bears should occur on Princess Royal Island, rather than the 140-150 or so estimated by Doug Stewart (in Marty, 1994) or approximately 130 suggested by Russell (1994:32). However, this is admittedly a gross approximation. If 400 are present and 10% are white, then 40 white-phase bears could occur on the island. However, the white to black ratio in the Laredo Inlet area may or may not apply to all of Princess Royal. Based on historical records, a relatively high white to black ratio should also occur at Gribbell Island, but this remains to be documented.

2.4 Ecology

There is no reason to expect white and black-phase bears to exhibit any differences in basic ecology, behavior, or life-history characteristics. Both are expected to have similar food habits, denning and cover requirements, home ranges, growth rages, litter sizes and longevity. There have been no comprehensive studies of U.a. kermodei, but some reasonable inferences can be drawn from studies in other areas (Lloyd 1979; Davis and Hamilton, 1996) and from local natural history observations (Russell, 1994).

Foods: In early spring, new green vegetation such as sedges and skunk cabbage, obtained primarily at low elevations in estuaries, beach fringes, wetlands and floodplains, will be important. In late spring and early summer, both green vegetation and berries (as they become available) will be eaten, and some use will occur at higher elevations. Spawning salmon will be a very important food from late-July through October, with local pulses of abundance as rainfall events allow runs of various species to enter streams. Small streams with partial barriers are probably the most important sites for foraging on fish. Salmon will be the most important food source with respect to fattening for hibernation.

Denning: The denning period is expected to last from about November to March. Most denning is probably in old-growth structures (in or under standing trees or in the root-wads of windfalls), with cedar the preferred tree.

3.1 Effects on Plant Forage

There is now a very large body of literature on black bears, however very few studies have focussed on effects of logging. This is apparently because this abundant and adaptable species appears to do well on lands that are managed for long-term timber production, and there are few if any examples of significant population declines resulting from logging. In fact, some of the most intensive studies in the Pacific Northwest (e.g. Poelker and Hartwell, 1973) were instigated because of forest damage by bears, rather than concern for the effects of logging on bears.

There is considerable evidence that black bear populations respond positively to the creation of seral stages which produce abundant green forage, berries, or other fruits. Being predominantly herbivores, this relationship is to be expected. Early seral stages resulting from both wildfire and logging may be attractive to bears. This relationship appears to apply across much of the black bear range in North America, except perhaps the arid southwest. The duration of positive effects may be shorter in coastal than in interior environments due to more rapid forest succession on the coast (Lindzey et al. 1986).

 In Quebec, Boileau et al. (1994) found that “Disturbances in mature forest such as logging, burns or insect epidemics benefit black bears. …. logging practices provide quality habitat for the species.” In Wyoming, Irwin and Hammond (1985) noted that “Seral plant communities that follow logging often produce abundant fruit-producing shrubs for black bears”, and recommended clear cutting (<10 ha) on north- and east-facing slopes to benefit bear populations. Young and Beecham (1986) found that bears in northern Idaho preferred 20-40 years old selection cuts during all seasons; they believed this use was due to abundant food species and available trees for escape cover. In Montana, Jonkel and Cowan (1971) reported with respect to natural burns that “all seral stages seem to be equally popular with the bears”. In logged areas they noted little use of recently logged sites, but found that bear use of sites 10 years after logging was the same as in adjacent old-growth forest stands. In northern California, Kelleyhouse (1980) reported a high bear population (0.4 to 0.8/km2) on a study area which had been 40 to 50% logged since 1950.

 Lindzey and Meslow (1977) studied black bears on a 20 km2 island in the Sitka spruce zone of coastal Washington, a habitat type not unlike coastal B.C. Over half of the island was logged between 1952 and 1968, and some logging had also occurred prior to 1935. They found that black bears selected for areas logged between 1963 and 1968 (5 to 12 year old stages) and against areas logged before 1935 (40 years old and older). Berry-producing shrub species were 7-8 times more abundant in recently logged areas than in older stands. The authors concluded “It is obvious in this region early seral plant communities that follow clearcutting produce concentrations of foods for bears.”

Several authors have also expressed concern that excessive logging and/or certain logging practices may adversely impact bear populations. Just as the early seral stages following logging provide an abundance of food, advanced second-growth stands (e.g. over 20 to 30 year’s post-logging) mostly provide very little forage (Lindzey et al. 1986). This is of most concern if large areas in a watershed enter the non-productive stage at about the same time. In the Nimpkish River watershed on Vancouver Island for example, it is probable that bear populations increased in response to clear-cutting in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but are now undergoing a period of stress as most of those clearcuts enter the advanced second-growth stage. This stress is evidenced by a relatively high rate of cannibalism (Davis and Hamilton, 1996). However, black bears are of common occurrence in extensive second growth forests on southeast Vancouver Island, and there is no reason to expect a complete collapse of the Nimpkish population. Black bear studies available to date suggest that forage resources adequate to support pre-logging or higher populations of bears can be maintained indefinitely if clear-cuts are adequately dispersed in space and time.

3.2 Effects on Forage Fish

Most coastal black bear populations appear to depend heavily on spawning salmon for pre-hibernation fattening needed to carry them through the winter (e.g. Lloyd, 1979). Reduced availability of salmon to those bears, whatever the cause, could adversely affect their survivorship. For many decades, several million salmon have been commercially harvested per annum along the B.C. coast. Most of these would otherwise have reached the spawning grounds, and many would have been available to bears (and other piscivorous wildlife) in holding areas, on the spawning grounds, or as spawned carcasses. Whether that commercial removal has adversely affected B.C. bear populations, relative to their distribution, abundance and survivorship in pre-settlement times, cannot now be determined but seems likely.

In recent years there has been considerable concern that logging practices may be adversely affecting anadromous salmonid populations. While there is little doubt that extensive logging can affect stream characteristics such as turbidity, water temperature and seasonal flow rates (and has done so in some cases), there is little conclusive evidence linking such changes to declines in spawning escapements in B.C. However, several scientists have inferred that recent declines in commercial catches and/or spawning escapements are attributable in small or large part to logging impacts.

In the Queen Charlotte Islands, Shirvell and Charbonneau (1984) found that the total escapement for the 1948-52 period of over 11 million adults fell to 3.4 million in the 1978-82 period, and that since 1947 at least 29 salmon stream populations had become extinct. Despite the fact that escapements of Coho and Sockeye which are not major commercial species in the Queen Charlottes did not change appreciably from 1948 to 1982, and that declines or extinctions involved unlogged as well as logged watersheds, Northcote et al. (1989) suggested that the cause of the Queen Charlotte Island declines and extinctions probably indicated a combination of “… severe habitat degredation and over-fishing.”

Bergdahl (1975) in a paper prepared for the Valhalla Society, emphasizes 3 exmples of B.C. salmon stocks at risk, 1). the Queen Charlotte Islands escapement declines referred to above, 2). the probable extinction of 30% of the wild coho runs along Georgia Strait, and 3). the failure of one million sockeye to return to the Fraser River in 1994. Despite there being little or no evidence to link those 3 cases with impacts of logging, Bergdahl uses them to preface his arguments that other authors such as Walters (1995) have shown a bias toward over-fishing as a cause of Pacific salmon declines, and that “… poor timber management, especially clearcut harvest practices …” is a major threat to anadromous salmonids on the B.C. coast.

While we realize that there is considerable potential for poor logging practices to adversely affect salmon, and believe that Forest Practices Code (FPC) and related standards should be rigorously followed, we do not believe that a causal link has been clearly demonstrated between forest harvesting and significant salmon stock declines on the B.C. coast. Logging within FPC guidelines, at Princess Royal Island or elsewhere on the Mid-Coast, is not expected to measurably affect the salmonid forage resources utilized by black bears. The available evidence suggests that commercial fishing has had a much greater effect on the availability of spawning salmon to bears and other piscivorous wildlife than has timber harvest. Commercial fishing removes a high percentage of the biomass that would otherwise be available, and may result in local extinctions when small runs destined for small streams are subject to high rates of by-catch in fisheries aimed at larger stocks. As noted by Bergdahl (1995), small streams are very important to foraging bears because salmon in them are easily captured.

 3.3 Effects on Denning Sites

Throughout its North American range, the black bear shows a remarkable adaptability in choice of den sites (Appendix 3). In boreal areas where tree diameters are small (except cottonwood) most dens are dug in the ground; caves may be important where the geology is appropriate (e.g. Pennsylvania); surface nests are common in the south; and dens in or under brushpiles occur frequently in the east. Along the Pacific Coast, dens are predominantly in or under large-diameter live trees, snags, stumps, or root-wads of windfalls (Davis and Hamilton, 1996; Lindzey and Meslow, 1976). Old-growth trees are also expected to be the usual denning sites throughout the range of U.a. kermodei.

The extent to which black bears may alter their denning habits when forested landscapes are affected by logging, fire, or land-clearing is not known. In the eastern U.S., the acceptance of brush piles originating from land clearing or logging indicates some adaptability. It is also likely that the high use of caves or rock piles in some areas is related to forest loss. In a study area in North Carolina where most large trees had been cut, Hamilton and Marchinton (1977) speculated that “… bears would have used tree cavities almost exclusively, if available, because of the added protection from weather, high water, man, and hunting dogs.”

Along the northwest coast, old-growth structures currently provide almost all den sites, even in study areas which were extensively logged this century. At Long Island, Washington, 8 of 12 dens were under upright or pushed-over stumps (Lindzey and Meslow, 1976). In the Nimpkish Valley, dens were at 4 main types: hollow old-growth trees (56%), logs and root boles (26%), stumps (13%), and under tree roots (5%) (Davis and Hamilton, 1996). Most Nimpkish dens were in remaining stands of old-growth, but some were in mature second growth, in immature plantations, or in fire succession stands containing large veteran trees. These observations indicate that black bears will den in landscapes that have been subjected to considerable first-pass logging, that they make some use of old-growth structures that have been modified by logging (e.g. stumps; butts of non-yarded logs), and that denning can occur in immature stands in which old-growth structures occur. Bear populations at both Long Island and the Nimpkish Valley were relatively high in recent years (see Appendix 2) which suggests that logging impacts on den availability have probably not limited population size.

A concern for black bears in managed coastal forests is that the remnant old-growth structures now used or available for denning will eventually rot away, and that trees in managed forest stands will not achieve sufficient diameter to replace them. This could result in an eventual shortage of denning sites, particularly in extensively logged areas, and particularly if these coastal bears will only accept old-growth structures as den sites. Only long-term research can determine whether such shortages will indeed occur.

Throughout the range of U.a. kermodei, a considerable proportion of the CWH and MH forest is unmerchantable or inoperable, and this includes stands in which red cedar and/or yellow cedar (the preferred species for denning) are common. These stands, together with riparian leave-strips, forest ecosystem networks and wildlife tree patches, should provide for bear denning needs in most areas.


4.1 Characteristics of the Island

Princess Royal, at 2,250 km2 in area, is the fourth largest island on the B.C. Coast (after Vancouver, Graham and Moresby Islands). It has 592 km of shoreline, is deeply dissected by several inlets (Cornwall, Surf, Helmcken, Laredo and Alexander) and has many lakes, the largest (Whalen) being over 20 km long and 1800 ha in area. The mountainous eastern half of the island, with summits to 1,250 m, lies in the Kitimat Ranges physiographic region of Holland (1976); the more rolling topography of the western side is in the Hecate Lowland.

Two Biogeoclimatic Zones are present. The CWH Zone comprises about 90% of the island and MH Zone about 10%, (Ministry of Forests and Lands, 1988). The Hecate Lowland part of the island is dominated by the CWH Very Wet Hypermaritime Subzone, Central Variant (CWHvh2). In the mountainous eastern portion, the CWH Very Wet Maritime subzone, Submontane Variant (CWHvm1) is widespread at low elevations and the Montane Variant (vm2) is of more restricted occurrence at middle elevations (Figure 3). The MH Zone occurs on upper slopes and ridge-crests, above the 600 to 800 m level. These Subzones/variants, and Site Series in them, are described in detail by Banner et al (1993).

Over much of Princess Royal Island, forest stands are poorly developed due to slope steepness, bedrock exposure, or boggy terrain. Extensive areas of scrub forest and avalanche track occur on the eastern part of the island, and large tracts of bog forest on the western side. Productive forest is mostly confined to the lower slopes and floodplains of major valleys. In the TFL 25 portion of the island (Figure 3), 55 % is classified as forested and only 35% of the forest land is operable.

Large estuaries such as occur on the adjacent mainland (e.g. Khutze R.) do not occur on Princess Royal, primarily because the island watersheds and creeks are small. Of the 407 B.C.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Biogeoclimatic zones and TFL 25 boundary, Princess Royal Island.

estuaries rated by Hunter et al. (1985), none were on Princess Royal. However, a few small estuaries are present, mostly at the heads of inlets, and these and other grassy upper-beach sites are undoubtedly important for bears, particularly in spring.

There are at least 27 salmon spawning streams on Princess Royal Island (Appendix ­­­5). Most spawning is in the lower reaches, within 2 or 3 km of tidewater. Sockeye runs are generally small and regularly occur in about 5 streams where access to rearing lakes is available. Coho occur in most creeks, but usually in small to moderate numbers. Pink salmon also utilize most of the creeks, with major runs (5,000 or more) in several of them. Significant runs of chum salmon (1000 or more) occur in several creeks, and steelhead spawn in the Canoona River. In total, the island supports a high diversity and biomass of spawning salmon.

The island provides relatively good bear habitat. The wet, moderate climate promotes forage production, although poor nutrient status and shallow soils are limitations in some areas. Green forage is generally available in small estuaries and deltas, riparian sites, beach fringes, wetlands, bog forest, and avalanche tracks. Berries such as salmonberry, salal, huckleberries, blueberries and crowberries occur in riparian sites, wetlands, and openings in the old-growth forest. Spawning salmon are of widespread occurrence on the island, and are available over an extended season (late July to November) depending on each species spawning phenology and on the timing of rainstorms which permit salmon access into the creeks and over some barriers. The creeks on Princess Royal are generally small and have a variety of falls and chutes which impede fish movement. This results in many opportunities for bears to catch fish, in comparison to large rivers where many fish may be present but not catchable. Salmon are undoubtedly the most important forage for bears at Princess Royal in terms of fattening for hibernation.

The existing old-growth forest at Princess Royal provides an ample supply of potential den sites. Most black bear denning is expected to be in old growth structures, of which western redcedar has the most suitable characteristics.

4.2 Potential Logging Activity in TFL 25

Within the TFL 25, Block 5, portion of Princess Royal Island (Figure 3), potentially operable forest comprises only about 19% of the total land area, 35% of the forested area, and 43% of height class 3+ forest (Table 1). The area actually logged will probably be less than 35% of the forest because of additional FPC requirements for Wildlife Habitat Areas (WHA’s) (e.g. for Marbled Murrelets), Wildlife Tree Patches (WTP’s), Forest Ecosystem Networks (FEN’s), and visual (particularly Inside Passage) constraints.

Because of the large land area involved (compared to Roderick or Yeo Islands, for example), logging can be staged over several decades, and resulting seral stages should vary considerably in age from valley to valley. The operable forest is widely dispersed in a number of watersheds, therefore seral stages should also be widely dispersed on the landscape. Based on logging patterns in similar terrain on Roderick Island, the cutblocks are expected to be small in size (15 to 30 ha), and irregular in shape; no point in them should be more than about 300 m from perimeter forest. Some of the logging will be helicopter, thus keeping the extent of road-building to a minimum.

Over the long term, about 65% of the present mature/old-growth forest in the TFL 25 part of the island will remain (Table 1). Except for tree patches in cutblocks, this is expected to be in the form of a completely interconnected matrix which includes low elevation riparian and marine shoreline leave-strips, mid-slope stands (inoperable or WHA’s) and upper elevation woodlands

Table 1. – Area of forested land and operable stands in TFL 25, Princess Royal Island.1

 Cover Types Area (ha) % of % of

Total forest Total Land


Non Forested2 34 342 45

Mature forest

Height Cl. 1 + 23 7 201 17 9

Height Cl. 3+ 33 906 81 45

Operable4 14 417 35 19

Inoperable5 19 490 47 26

Immature Forest6 617 2 1

Total Forested Land 41 724 100

Total Land Area 76 074 100


1 based on summary statistics provided by WFP

2 includes some scrub forest, krummholz, and bog “forest”

3 non-commercial

4 includes both conventional and helicopter logging

5 inoperable due to riparian, slope stability and access constraints

6 mostly small red alder stands.

4.3 Potential Effects and Planned Mitigation

4.3.1. Effects on Green Forage and Berries

The early seral stages created by logging will increase the forage supply for bears. Based on experience in other areas, the bear population should respond positively. The duration of this effect will depend on the time period over which logging occurs, and on silvicultural practices. It is not economically feasible to create a constant supply of early seral stages over a complete (e.g. 100 year) rotation in remote areas such as Princess Royal. However, the benefits of early seral herbage and berry production should persist for 3 to 4 decades, after which the bear population would probably decline to approximately pre-logging numbers. Silviculture practices specifically aimed at maintaining key forage resources for bears can be applied if they are justified. In any event, logging is not expected to significantly reduce black bear forage resources on Princess Royal.

4.3.2. Effects on Fish

Maintenance of salmonid populations is of great importance here, as elsewhere, and existing codes and regulations (e.g. Coastal Fish-Forestry Guidelines; FPC Riparian Area Guidelines) must be strictly adhered to. Because of the importance assigned to the Kermode bear, additional attention should be given to those specific stream reaches or sites where these bears forage for salmon. Firstly, surveys and interviews should be undertaken in order to map all such sites. Road layout should be such as to ensure that roads along stream valleys give these sites a wide berth, and that crossings are not situated where they would result in disturbance of foraging bears. Consideration should be given to widened FPC Reserve or Management Zones where bears concentrate to feed on salmon, and to seasonal avoidance of potentially disturbing activity in adjacent work areas. Forested corridors need to be retained so that the bears have unrestricted access to and from these key fish-foraging sites.

 Logging here can be carried out without a short or long-term impact on bears through availability of or access to spawning salmon. The availability of spawners is much more likely to be affected by marine catches than by logging.

4.3.3. Effects on Escape Cover

Black bears need hiding cover and trees to climb in order to escape predation by grizzlies which occasionally occur on the island, to escape from canibalistic conspecifics, to avoid competing individuals at fishing sites, and to hide from hunters. These needs will be met by the 65% of forest area that remains uncut (particularly in riparian areas, along beaches and around wetlands where the bears frequently forage), by wildlife tree patches left in clearcuts, and by seral trees which have reached climbable size. In view of the small size and irregular configuration of most clearcuts, logging is not expected to have any measurable impact on Princess Royal bears through removal of security cover.

4.3.4. Loss of Denning Sites

Over the long-term, the 65% of forest area that remains uncut is expected to provide den sites in excess of the needs of the bear population. This permanently retained old-growth will be widely distributed at all elevations and on a variety of terrain types, and will be augmented by wildlife tree patches in clearcuts. Additional measures to retain denning opportunities should include protection of any active dens encountered by fallers (and a buffer around them), and retention of large-diameter debris in clearcuts. Selection of wildlife tree patches should give priority to stands with good denning characteristics. WFP has agreed to undertake bear den surveys where areas of high bear use are indicated.

After one or more generations, old-growth debris in the clearcuts will rot away and no longer be available for denning. However, the remaining old-growth area is expected to provide denning sites in excess of the needs of the bear population.

4.3.5. Effects of Habitat Fragmentation

The uncut old-growth forest on Princess Royal, except for tree patches in clearcuts, will persist as a completely connected matrix. Because of this connectivity, and the fact that black bears move readily through various seral stages, logging should have no significant effect on their population continuity or gene flow on the island. Likewise, it is difficult to see how logging of the scale proposed for Princess Royal would have any impact on the opportunity for black bears to cross in either direction between the island and mainland. In other words, broad-scale population connectivity in the Kermode bear should not be adversely affected by the logging that is proposed for Princess Royal Island.

4.3.6. The Problem of Habituation

Except for a few bears at Laredo Inlet (Russell, 1994) and at locations on the island where hunting occurs, the bears of Princess Royal have had little contact with people. Within the TFL 25 portion of the island, there is probably no significant habituation to foods of human origin. This situation must be strictly maintained. All food storage, preparation and consumption (except for lunches), and waste incineration, should be on floating or onshore camps, and loggers should not leave any lunch remains in the woods.

With the advent of logging, more people (cruisers, road and block design engineers, PHSP technicians, fallers, tree-planters etc.) will be in the woods on the island, increasing the likelihood of contact between people and bears. It is important that this not result in confrontations which require bears to be destroyed, or in increased wariness of those bears which are presently ammenable to viewing in the Laredo Inlet area. To this end, WFP has agreed to institute a briefing program for all of its employees and contractors who will be on the island. This will emphasize various measures to be taken to avoid harmful confrontations, and appropriate situations for their employment.

WFP has convened a panel of bear experts from government agencies, and universities to provide advice on bear management. The advice of this group should be sought with respect to waste disposal and prevention of habituation.

The above measures are expected to prevent any habituation-related problems from arising.

4.3.7. Potential Hunting Mortality

Although a harvestable surplus undoubtedly exists in the Princess Royal bear population, it seems desirable not to increase hunting mortality above present levels, in order to protect the genetic resources giving rise to the white phase. To achieve this, no guns should be allowed in camps, and it should be a condition of employment for WFP staff and contractors that they not engage in hunting while on Princess Royal Island. The lack of road access to the outside world will preclude vehicle-based road hunting by outsiders, except for the possible use of ATV’s brought by boat. The latter kind of use can be prohibited by logging operators when logging is in progress. Post-logging access will be severely restricted through prompt deactivation of roads. If hunting the roads on foot or with ATV’s becomes a problem, for example when active logging is completed in any particular watershed, the Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks can initiate appropriate regulations and enforcement. This could even involve a complete closure of hunting. Although such regulations may not apply to First Nations hunters, sustenance hunting by native people has not been demonstrated to pose a threat to black bears in the Mid Coast region.

With the above measures there is no reason that hunting mortality should increase as a result of logging activity proposed by WFP.

4.3.8 Potential Shifts in the Ratio of White to Black Color Phases

Although we have argued that logging in the TFL 25 portion of Princess Royal Island should not threaten the long-term occurrence of viable Ursus americanus populations in that area, this does not preclude the possibility that habitat modification could cause an increase or decrease in the frequency of occurrence of white-phase bears in the local population. Various mechanisms including immigration, emmigration, fitness, differential survivorship or mortality rates could give rise to such shifts (Dr. R. Wielgus, pers. comm.). Whether such changes would indeed occur, whether they would have positive or negative effects, and the mechanisms responsible for initiating them, are matters which can only be elucidated with a comprehensive research program. In order to satisfy the high public concern for white-phase bears, and to avoid any needless curtailment of logging based on perceived conservation needs, this research should be given a high priority.

4.3.9 Effects on Viewing Opportunities

Experience has shown that one or two creeks in the Laredo Inlet area provide the best known opportunity to view white-phase Kermode bears in a natural setting. These sites are now the destination of organized nature tours and independent visitors, and have economic potential for tourism development by the Kitasoo Band. To protect esthetic values at important viewing sites, WFP has agreed to forego logging in the vicinity of them. In fact, WFP has already recommended that a large block of TFL land surrounding Mellis Inlet, including the watersheds of Nias and Packe Creeks, be deleted from their AAC in order to preserve Kermode bear habitat and public viewing opportunities. This is the location where most white bear viewing activity has been concentrated in recent years. Additional areas can be set aside if they prove to have high levels of bear use and/or provide good opportunities for observing white-phase bears in a natural setting.

As noted in Sec. 4.3.8, extensive habitat modification could conceivably result in an increase or decrease in the expression of the white-phase allele. If the result was a decrease, then the opportunity to view these animals might also decrease.


Review of available information suggests that logging can be carried out in the TFL 25 portion of Princess Royal Island without adverse consequences for the survivorship or behaviour of Kermode bears. Obviously, exemplary practices and special measures are needed to achieve this objective. Western Forest Products has indicated that it is committed to the implementation of such measures, many of which have already been discussed. WFP should ensure that Kermode and grizzly bears receive high priority in their short and long term management plans. As an example, their Total Resource Plan for the MacNair/Doris Forest Licence (Western Forest Products, 1996) gives a high level of protection to key grizzly bear habitats. Kermode bears and their habitats should receive high priority in a Total Resource Plan for Princess Royal Island. In addition, WFP should meet regularly with its expert panel on bears and incorporate advice from that group into its habitat protection and forest management plans.

It is concluded from this review that logging and the maintenance of black bear populations are compatible land use objectives at Princess Royal Island. Although the proportion of the bear population comprised of white-phase animals could conceivably change over time, this matter could only be resolved by research carried out coincidentally with the logging program. However, we do not believe that such changes, if they occurred, would be of sufficient magnitude to threaten the continued viability of white-phase bears on Princess Royal Island. This implies that a large unlogged sanctuary is not an essential element for the preservation of Kermode bears in that area. This conclusion differs from that of some groups which have proposed such a reserve (Valhalla Wilderness Society, 1995).


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  3 Responses to “How The Kermode Bear is Affected by Logging”

Comments (3)
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