Grizzly Polar Bear Mix Shot in Northern Canada

What to call the grizzly-polar bear hybrid shot in northern Canada last week has been up in the air. Should it be a pizzly or a grolar bear? Opinions are mixed.

The unusual bear was shot in a small arctic community located on the Hudson Bay by an Arviat hunter named Didji Ishalook. He told The Guardian newspaper he thought it was a small polar bear at first before realizing it was something different. 

“It looks like a polar bear but it’s got brown paws and big claws like a grizzly,” Ishalook said. “And the shape of a grizzly head.”

A grizzly bear expert who also spoke with the newspaper confirmed it was a species hybrid or “half-breed,” likely caused by the effects of global warming.

“The combination of warmer temperatures and vegetation growth means there is more overlap between the species and I’d expect that overlap to increase,” Chris Servheen, a grizzly bear expert at the University of Montana, told the Guardian.

An expert who spoke with the CBC also confirmed the bear was likely a hybrid rather than an albino grizzly.

“An albino bear would have a light-coloured or pink-coloured nose, and no pigmentation in the eyes and the claws,” said Dave Garshelis a research scientist from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and a world renowned bear expert. “This bear has a black nose, and normal dark-coloured eyes and claws. So, it’s not an albino.”

Originally, polar bears evolved from brown bears around 150,000 years ago, so it’s only natural that they would make likely breeding pairs. With polar bears moving south due to diminishing sea ice and grizzlies seeking habitat further north, the two are mingling.

“We are looking at an evolutionary change in the long term where overlaps are increasing and polar bears don’t have a lot of options,” Servheen said. “But it will be hundreds of generations before we really see a new type of bear.” 

And the answer as to what to call it? If the sire is a grizzly bear, it’s called a grolar. If the sire is a polar bear, it’s a pizzly. 

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