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Meet Haida Gwaii's Black Bear - Taan

June 22, 2017

Haida Gwaii is known world-wide as the “Galapagos of the North”, a magical place where Haida people have lived on the islands for thousands of years.

Amidst the isolated, wild shorelines, the lush rainforests and the sandy beaches as far as the eye can see, the islands are home to a wide variety of unique flora and fauna. One animal, local to Haida Gwaii in particular is North America’s largest sub species of black bear, known as "taan" in the Haida language.

This magnificent black bear thrives on a nutrient-rich diet from the forests of Haida Gwaii and feasting on plants and animals of the intertidal zones. Over time taan developed especially large jaws and teeth, which has enabled them to easily eat whole crabs and barnacles while they forage on the beach. They also play a fundamental role in the development of Haida Gwaii's forests by facilitating an important role in its unique ecosystem. The bears habitually transport salmon remains into the surrounding woods, which ultimately becomes rich fertilizer for the Island's lush vegetation.


In Haida mythology, the bears are considered family. There is an old legend called “Bear Mother” or “Taan AwGa”. One day a young woman was picking berries but had found that the bears had eaten most of them. She became angry and blamed the bears for her unfortunate luck. The bears had heard her; they became agitated and stole her away. At first the young woman had missed her family and village. She found solace in the bear village, married bear father and had two bear cubs. Years later, the woman returned to her village to teach the people to respect the bears.


Throughout the start of the 2017 season at the Haida House at Tllaal, we have noticed an increase in taan sightings. This is considered an incredible breakthrough, as the loge that is now Haida-owned, was once a privately-owned trophy bear hunting lodge called the “Tlell River House”. Thanks to the vocal opposition from the citizens of Haida Gwaii, the Council of the Haida Nation purchased the last two commercial guiding licenses held by the lodge and retired them for good.

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