Photographing the Elusive Spirit Bear

This is a story of one photographer’s passion: her life-long obsession of photographing bears and her dream to photograph the most elusive of them all, the spirit bear. This is the story of Daisy Gilardini, wildlife photographer and lifelong admirer of bears:

Gilardini explains her fascination with bears—and especially the spirit bear:

“I always had that attachment for wildlife. I’ve photographed polar bears, I almost circumnavigated the Arctic, the Russian arctic, the Canadian arctic, and I always heard stories about this spirit bear, which is actually a black bear with genetic mutation and is actually white.”

photographing the spirit bear

A spirit bear in playful mood

There are not many of these bears living in the wild. Concentrated mainly within the territory of British Columbia in Canada, these beautiful creatures are reduced to less than a thousand in number. September and October are the best months to spot these bears. This is the season of the salmon run.

in pursuit of the spirit bear

A sleeping spirit bear. Cute, eh?

“You just sit and wait, that’s what you do, that’s what wildlife is all about. It’s about waiting and patient until something happens.”

Though she was lucky enough to spot a spirit bear on her first visit, Gilardini took these amazing pictures on her second visit. She wouldn’t have unless her guide stumbled upon a resting spirit bear and called her out. What transpired was captured for eternity in her photographs.

how to photograph the spirit bear

Spirt Bear at Rest

Gilardini was so close to the bear that she could hear it breathe.

“It was such an amazing experience. Being so close to such a really, really rare animal and being tolerated, being in peace.”

Daisy Gilardini

Daisy Gilardini

It’s disturbing to note that this magnificent animal is now under threat from man’s expansionary moves. A huge pipeline is being planned that will transport oil through the spirit bears’ habitat, destroying parts of it irrevocably.

“For me ethics comes first. I will never put in danger or disturb an animal just to get a picture. So, as soon as I see distress in the animal I just stop, give him space, until he is the one to approach me.”

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