Sibling Spirit Bears huddle together while their mother fishes for salmon. A recessive gene found only in the black bears of British Columbia causes some cubs to be born with white fur.
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Sibling Spirit Bears huddle together while their mother fishes for salmon. A recessive gene found only in the black bears of British Columbia causes some cubs to be born with white fur.
Credit: Courtesy of Ian McAllister

Where the spirit bears roam

Ian McAllister and his father arrived late to the logging protest at Clayoquat Sound, British Columbia. It was the late 1980s; McAllister was in his teens.

When they showed up, they found that most of the activists had been taken to jail in Vancouver.

All that was left was a handful of people manning the blockade – a flimsy wicker basket up a tree over a logging road. But there was no one left to sit in it.

“Dad just pushed me forward and said, ‘Well, he’ll do it!’” McAllister said. “I got stuck in this wicker basket with a Margaret Atwood novel for two days – a nightmare for a teenage boy.”

(Note: McAllister said he has since apologized to Atwood since he first told this story.)

This is part of the origin story of a man who went on to be a conservationist and filmmaker. He recently directed “The Great Bear Rainforest: Land of the Spirit Bear,” playing now at the Pacific Science Center.

Filmmaker Ian McAllister and Chris Morgan in front of a live audience on April 26, 2019 at The Mountaineers in Seattle.
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Filmmaker Ian McAllister and Chris Morgan in front of a live audience on April 26, 2019 at The Mountaineers in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Juan Chiquiza


In this interview with The Wild host Chris Morgan, McAllister tells stories of shooting the breathtaking footage for the film and the delicate position this ecosystem is in. You’ll learn to appreciate the culture of herring, the memories of humpback whales, the mercy of wolves toward a human interloper and the mystery of the world’s rarest bear.

"It's a place that if we're successful in protecting it and protecting the species that exist there, this is something that's going to impact all of our lives," McAllister said. "It's a last refuge."

"Having these big, intact refuges may be our greatest hope in terms of resiliency and hope for the future, which when it comes to the environment, is hope for humanity."

The event was hosted in front of a live audience at The Mountaineers in Seattle on April 26. Produced for the web by Kara McDermott.