It seems like every week we’re hearing about another animal on the endangered list because of something we humans have done (#savethebees). Well, now it looks like one of our worst contributions to nature, climate change, has had a hand in the introduction of a new(ish) species.
Last week, Didji Ishalook shot what he thought was a polar bear near his home in Arviat, Nunavut. Upon further investigation, he realized it wasn’t a polar bear. Well, not entirely. The animal was actually a grizzly-polar bear hybrid. Rare, but not unheard of.
Since a pizzly (Prizzly? Grolar? Grizzolar? We’re not sure) bear was found in the Northwest Territories in 2006, they’ve been spotted more and more frequently in northern Canada. Up until the 2006 discovery, it was known that there was a genetic possibility the two species could mate, but no one had seen the result of said mating in the wild.
According to Dave Garshelis, a scientist well-known in the bear research community, the increase in numbers of these hybrid bears is due to global warming. As the northern Canadian climate grows more temperate, grizzly bears are able to travel farther north, into polar bear territory. And once they’re in the same general area, well, you know how animals are… And then BAM! We have a brand new hybrid bear species.
On the naming issue: unofficially, a ‘pizzly’ bear is a hybrid with a polar bear for a father and a ‘grolar’ bear is one with a grizzly father. Here, we will be using the term ‘pizzly’ because it’s more fun to say and sounds like the name of some sort of Willy Wonka candy.
We don’t really know much about these new bears beyond their genetics. So few have been found (and most often after they’ve been shot) that almost nothing is known about their temperaments and habits. Plus, they are bears, so we can’t exactly just snatch one and learn all its secrets (and please don’t try!).
It may be years before we know much more about these bears. But, as always, we would suggest staying away from them. We can assume they still don’t like to be messed with. Even if you haven’t actually seen The Revenant, you get the idea.
Now, for your amusement, here’s a picture of some adorable baby polar bears. Hey, they can hold us over until shots of pizzly cubs are released: