NEW HAZELTON, B.C. - A documentary filmmaker from Ohio has been found dead in northern British Columbia, more than four months after he disappeared while working on a project about rare spirit bears.
Warren Andrew Sill, 26, who travelled to New Hazelton, B.C., to film a documentary on white kermode bears, disappeared in July.
At the time, his vehicle was found at the entrance of a trail in Seven Sister's Provincial Park with his camping gear still inside.
The discovery of Sill's vehicle, along with concerns that Sill was not an avid outdoorsman, prompted a massive air and ground search, but those efforts were eventually scaled back.
On Saturday, a local search-and-rescue team located what appeared to be Sill's shirt near a waterfall. The area couldn't be reached during the summer because of the terrain and high water levels, but the water has since receded.
"Due to the decreased water levels at this time of year, members were able to access the area and located a body," RCMP Const. Lesley Smith said in a news release.
"We can confirm that it is Warren Andrew Sill and our condolences go out to the Sill family and all his friends."
Sill was working on a film about kermode bears — a rare subspecies of black bears that have a genetic trait that turns their coats white.
The spirit bear is the provincial animal of B.C.
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In a moss-draped rain forest in British Columbia, towering red cedars live a thousand years, and black bears are born with white fur.
With a population of 400 to as many as a thousand, the spirit bear may owe its survival to the protective traditions of the First Nations, who never hunted the animals or spoke of them to fur trappers.
Two adult males tussle over a prime fishing spot in a river. "Bear scraps are rare events," says Doug Neasloss, a Kitasoo/Xai'xais wildlife guide. "There's a high potential for injury, so they avoid conflict if they can."
With a pink salmon in its jaws, a five-year-old male retreats into the forest before slitting open the fish's belly and eating only the eggs. Other bears may consume everything, from head to tail.
In a forest dominated by second-growth trees, a young bear settles into a mossy day bed at the foot of a giant, old-growth western red cedar. Bears use such day beds to rest and sleep after a meal.
These photos are in the August 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands now. For more pictures of the spirit bear, <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/kermode-bear/nicklen-photography" target="_hplink">visit National Geographic's website.</a>