The Spirit Bear of Finland

 

Early autumn in Finland, and the colours begin to change throughout the magical taiga. The crisp greens of summer slowly vanish, as a colourful autumn ensemble presents itself across the boreal swamps. As the temperature drops day by day, Europe’s largest predator starts to prepare itself for it’s looming winter hibernation.

 
 
The ‘western lake’ bathed in afternoon light, surrounded by vibrant autumnal vegetation.

The ‘western lake’ bathed in afternoon light, surrounded by vibrant autumnal vegetation.

 
 

The Kuhmo region of Finland is home to a healthy population of Brown Bears, which travel long distance to forage in reliable feeding areas. In September, a number of individuals began to visit the area where the BearPhoto team were located. Among the darker adult male bears, chestnut coloured female bears and younger cubs, we noticed a new bear appear…

The beautiful blonde female bear appears through autumn foliage, pausing to smell the air.

The beautiful blonde female bear appears through autumn foliage, pausing to smell the air.

 
 

As the light had all but faded, and a thin mist hung low in the air, a ghostly white shape shuffled into view. A pristine, delicate looking Brown Bear wandered out of the forest, but it appeared almost entirely white! After returning to the Kuhmo area for the past few years, we had never seen or photographed such an unusual looking adult bear before.

 
 
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 Over the next few nights, this extraordinary pale bear, nicknamed ‘Blondie’, continued to visit. She was incredibly timid at first, keeping her distance from the hide. Over the next 7 nights, we watched her slowly gain confidence as she ventured closer to our hides, becoming more familiar with our scent.

 
 
The Brown Bear nicknamed ‘Blondie’ foraging among vibrant autumn foliage.

The Brown Bear nicknamed ‘Blondie’ foraging among vibrant autumn foliage.

 
 

After observing her behaviour and apprehensive nature, it was thought that Blondie was a young bear that had recently gained independence from her mother. Now foraging for food on her own, this beautiful bear continued to show herself each day throughout the autumn, allowing some incredible views in the lead up to her winter hibernation.

 
 
A closeup view of stunningly unique pale fur, as ‘Blondie’ pauses to inspect the area.

A closeup view of stunningly unique pale fur, as ‘Blondie’ pauses to inspect the area.

 
 

It was suggested in a recent article by Finnish tabloid Iltalehti, that pale or white patches are common on younger bears, but a bear as white as this female was extremely unusual. It is likely that ‘Blondie’ will return to the same area, when her hibernation comes to an end in early spring. Hopefully the BearPhoto guides will be lucky enough to see her again as they return to Kuhmo in April.

The pale Brown Bear wanders cautiously through some conifer saplings.

The pale Brown Bear wanders cautiously through some conifer saplings.

If you would like the chance to photograph this unique female bear as well as many others, click below to request an itinerary for one of our 2019 or 2020 Finland Brown Bear Tours.  

 
Harry Read