A forest that lives off fish, a white bear that is not a polar bear, and wolves that feed off the ocean… Canada’s Great Bear Rain Forest is a strange and pristine world, a land that time almost forgot.
The awe-inspiring northern coastline of British Columbia with its great fjords that rival those in Norway, is the habitat of numerous species and the scene for the amazing co-existence of wolves, ravens, salmon, bears and a mystical rainforest, whose lives are intricately intertwined…
This picturesque part of the earth is a complexly interwoven ecosystem, which scientists have yet to fully understand. But its astounding biological productivity and the adjoining waters have helped the conservation of a true miracle in this incomparable, temperate rain forest: The Spirit Bear.
Legend has it that Raven - the creator, gave white fur to one out of ten black bears, as a memento of the time when the earth was still covered with ice more than 10, 000 years ago. To the native Tsimshian of the Gitga’at community the Moksgm’ol, or the Spirit Bear, symbolizes the spirit of the rain forest. Their dances and stories will guide us on our quest for the mysterious white bear.
The best way to explore and discover the full dimension of the Great Bear Rain Forest is by boat. This is what a group of scientists and experts decide to do. Marven Robinson, one of the local pathfinders from the Gitga’at community has spent all his life here and knows the area around the islands by heart. He knows the secret places of Spirit Bears so he decides to walk. We follow both, the group and Marven, to gain exclusive insight from the inside and the outside. With the aid of high-speed technology, underwater cameras and a polecam, we take the viewer on a journey to the mysterious world of the Spirit Bear, from a variety of different perspectives.
With only about 400 to 1000 animals in existence the Spirit Bear is the rarest species of bear on our planet. With its all-white fur it strongly resembles a polar bear; but its physique and size clearly defines a smaller black bear. Spirit Bears are unique white black bears. They share the islands with packs of coastal wolves isolated here since the last ice age. These wolves live off the ocean, feeding on mussels, beached whales or other marine mammals. They mostly specialize in catching salmon, which - strange as it may sound - also nourishes the whole ecosystem of the northern coast of British Columbia. The rocky soil in the coastal regions is poor and nutrients are leached away by incessant rain.
But once a year, this unspoiled part of the world becomes a true paradise. The ravens, wolves and bears impatiently await the salmon runs in the late summer, the one time of the year, when they can eat their fill with fish.
This time is also the end and the beginning of a unique life cycle: unlike their European fellows, Pacific salmon dies after spawning. Here, they die in huge numbers, some even before they have reproduced, hunted by wolves and bears. They carry the dead fish deep into the forest; so valuable nutrients are returned to the trees and soil. The incredible biomass of the dying salmon supports the whole food chain along this rain forest coast.
It is this cycle of life that makes the bears and wolves iconic species in the Great Bear Rain Forest – the only forest, that lives off fish and a fragile ecosystem, that survived nearly untouched for tens of thousands of years.