Photo in the News: Polar Bear-Grizzly Hybrid Discovered

Polar bear-grizzly bear hybrid photo
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May 11, 2006—DNA analysis has confirmed that a bear shot in the Canadian Arctic last month is a half-polar bear, half-grizzly hybrid. While the two bear species have interbred in zoos, this is the first evidence of a wild polar bear-grizzly offspring.

Jim Martell (pictured at left), a 65-year-old hunter from Idaho, shot the bear April 16 on the southern tip of Banks Island (see Northwest Territories map), the CanWest News Service reports.

Wildlife officials seized the bear after noticing its white fur was interspersed with brown patches. It also had long claws, a concave facial profile, and a humped back, which are characteristic of a grizzly.

Now the genetic tests have confirmed that the hybrid's father was a grizzly and its mother was a polar bear.

"I don't think anyone expected it to actually happen in the wild," said Ian Stirling, a polar bear expert with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Edmonton.

Polar bears and grizzlies require an extended mating ritual to reproduce, Stirling said. Both live by themselves in large, open habitats.

To prevent wasting their eggs, females ovulate only after spending several days with a male, Stirling explained. "Then they mate several times over several days."

In other words, the mating between the polar bear and grizzly was more than a chance encounter. "That's what makes it quite interesting," he added.

Stirling says the hybrid has no official name, though locals have taken to calling it a "pizzly" and a "grolar bear."

—John Roach

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