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Calgary family spots rare white-headed bear cub in Banff Park

After a mountain vacation, a Calgary family was returning home when they happened upon an unusual occurrence. While driving back from Banff National Park with her family, Julia Turner Butterwick, a mother of two, unexpectedly captured an exceptionally uncommon white-headed grizzly cub.

Julia Turner Butterwick

When the woman noticed a mother bear with her two kids, she decided to take a drive-by shot of them after noting one of the babies has a particularly distinctive head color. “I said to my husband, ‘Oh, I’m just going to shoot a picture out the window,’ and then as we passed past, I remarked, ‘That cub has a white head,'” Julia explained. ” It caught me off guard. This is the first time I’ve seen anything like it. That tiny guy is quite unique.”

Julia Turner Butterwick

The Banff park officials confirmed that the cub is a grizzly bear, but admitted that they had never seen anything quite like it. Grizzly bear specialist Jeff Gailus told Global News that he’d never seen anything like it. “I haven’t even seen a photo of one!”

Officials believe that too many visits could put the bear cub at risk, therefore they have kept the location of the animal a secret. In addition, they urged Julia to keep the uncommon animal’s whereabouts a secret from the public.

Julia Turner Butterwick

“I had no idea it was so rare,” the woman told CBC News. “I thought, oh, that’s unusual; maybe people will be interested in this.” But if I’d known how unusual it was, I’d have contacted Banff Parks right away. They [the park officials] asked for further information about where we observed it, what side of the road we were on, and so on, and they indicated they were going to go out and put some safeguards in place to protect them.”

When Julia’s 4-year-old son pointed out the cub, she had no idea how incredible it was at first. The woman’s four-year-old son was “ecstatic.” As we got closer, my son noticed a panda-like creature.

A rare white grizzly is shown in Banff National Park

A grizzly bear expert believes that the bear’s white head is the product of an uncommon recessive gene, but it’s still a mystery. A gene that must be present in both of his parents in order for him to succeed. According to zoologist and wildlife specialist Paul Pauquet, “the gene could be present but not shown in the parent bears and siblings or other relatives.”

h/t: cbc | globalnews

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