Nanaimo resident Rabina Phipps captured a photo of the elusive blonde raccoon earlier this summer on Newcastle Island. She has been trying to catch sight of the animals for more than two decades.

Blonde raccoons remain elusive on Newcastle Island

NANAIMO – Newcastle Island considered one of the only known places in B.C. with blonde raccoons.

It’s not as well-known or revered as British Columbia’s spirit bear, but Nanaimo has its own animal attraction.

Newcastle Island is one of the only places in B.C. known to have blonde raccoons, a colour believed to be caused by a double-recessive gene.

It’s an “interesting phenomenon,” according to Sean Pendergast, wildlife biologist with the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations, who said he’s also heard of people spotting white moose, deer and squirrels in different parts of the country. Even B.C.’s white spirit bear is a colour-phase of the black bear.

It’s not known how many of the blonde raccoons are on Newcastle, but Pendergast said it’s the only place in the West Coast region he’s heard of them being reported. If the raccoons did exist elsewhere in B.C. it would likely be at very low levels, he said, adding it’s not something the province keeps tabs on.

The colour could put the animal at a natural disadvantage in areas where there’s more predators, Pendergast said.

“To my knowledge it’s not overly common, but there have been reports for some time now or many years on Newcastle Island of seeing these blonde colour-phase racoons,” he said. “You need this isolated population with [a] low level of gene influx to allow the recessive trait to come out.”

Field naturalist Bill Merilees, a member of the Newcastle Island Society, has spotted the creatures over the years and calls it a “cool phenomenon.” Sightings take timing and a little luck, but the blonde raccoons are on the beach regularly, he said, adding the chances of seeing one on the island is better than anywhere else he knows of in the province.

Luck was on the side of Nanaimo’s Rabina Phipps this summer. The paddler was out on the water with friends when she saw a white speck on Newcastle Island. She and her husband, a Nanaimo native, have been trying to catch sight of a blonde raccoon for more than two decades with no success.

“I knew [it] was there, but we’ve never found it or seen it,” she said, adding she was beside herself when she caught sight of one.

“I said there it is! There it is! I was pulling out the camera and I had camera parts flying all over the place and the boat was drifting and I was yelling at the girls to hold the boat.”

Phipps has seen one of the colour-phase racoons several times now, which she says we’re special to have.

The animals are listed as one of Newcastle Island’s attractions on the trail guide and according to Merilees the best time to find one is in the morning during low tide, when raccoons come out to forage.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Resident helps man in distress in Departure Bay in the middle of the night

Seven-foot-tall resident able to wade out far enough to help ‘frantic’ man in the water

Crash causes injuries, traffic tie-ups in downtown Nanaimo

Accident happened Friday at 12:15 p.m. at Terminal Avenue and Comox Road

Gabriola skatepark project gets $567,000 infrastructure grant

Federal and provincial governments providing money for Huxley Park amenities

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Council’s special-interest projects boosting property taxes too high

City council should keep in mind its core services when budgeting, says letter writer

Crash causes injuries, traffic tie-ups in downtown Nanaimo

Accident happened Friday at 12:15 p.m. at Terminal Avenue and Comox Road

Colour and culture being painted onto plaza stairs in downtown Nanaimo

City commissions Humanity in Art muralists for ‘artistic intervention’ project

Nanaimo’s newest skatepark now open for use in Harewood

Harewood Centennial Park amenity opens on schedule

Two injured hikers airlifted from North Vancouver Island Park

Campbell River and Comox Search and Rescue hoist team rescued the injured from Cape Scott Provincial Park

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Most Read