• Canadian Geographic bear covers from 1972 to 2015. (Images: Canadian Geographic Archives)

Canada has a love affair with bears, and so do we at Canadian Geographic magazine. Given the number of bears to grace the magazine’s cover (including the December 2015 issue, which recently hit newsstands), one might think the country is crawling with them.

Canada is home to three native bear species — the black bear, grizzly bear and polar bear — and a variety of subspecies that span the country. Just the promise of a glimpse of one of these large carnivores draws tourists that number in the thousands each year, making the bear the nation’s most iconic large carnivore. It’s no surprise that a total of twenty-five bears have found their way onto 18 Canadian Geographic magazine covers over the years.

Despite the bear’s significance, the Canadian Geographical Journal didn’t feature the first bear on its cover (a grizzly) until 42 years after its inception in 1930. The magazine’s covers didn’t even start displaying photos until 1936 (before that it was the simple design shown at right) and when they did the editors chose to feature people, historic moments and landscape shots over wildlife photos, which only began to appear in July 1946. Birds were preferred over mammals, and even then only ungulates (such as deer and a mountain goat) made the cut for a total of four covers.

A large grizzly bear broke the mold in April 1972. It was soon followed by a polar bear trio (May 1975) and a slew of other carnivores -- including wolves and large cats -- which have appeared with increased frequency ever since.

According to Wendy Lewis, historian and archivist to the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the “marmalade bear”, an orange Kermode cub (Aug/Sept 1977), was perhaps the most popular Canadian Geographic cover to date.

“Wildlife covers have proven to be of most interest to Can Geo readers,” she said. And they continue to be a major draw for our readership today, as evidenced by our continued love of bear covers.