Humorous naming possibilites abound for a new breed of bear discovered in the tundra of the Candian province of Nunavut. DNA tests have confirmed that the bear, shot by a Canadian hunter, is a previously-undiscovered cross between a Polar Bear and a Grizzly Bear. The hunter’s guide, Roger Kuptana, had noticed that the bear had a brown, spotty coloration and the slightly humped back of a grizzly, but not until last week did a DNA test confirm that a new hybrid had been discovered.
The possibility of a grizzly-polar bear hybrid has been known for years, and successful crossbreeds have been born in captivity. The range of the polar bear and the grizzly bear overlap slightly, and the breeding season of the two species are similar as well. However, no crossbreed had ever been found in the wild.
The DNA results are good news for the hunter, Jim Martell. He had been granted a permit to kill one wild polar bear, and the penalty for taking an grizzly bear without a permit is up to a year in jail. Now that the bear’s lineage has been established, Martell will not face any penalty and will be allowed to keep the bear as a trophy. He has dubbed it a “polargrizz.”
The crossbreed may indicate that there is a problem for both species. Both the Polar Bear and the Grizzly bear are considered threatened species, and the existence of hybrids might mean that the bears are having a difficult time finding mates. Additionally, wildlife geneticist David Paetaku (in an interview with CNN), expressed concern that the crossbreeding may water down the breeds of two already threatened animals.