Grizzly-polar bear hybrid is shot dead in Canada raising new global warming fears
When a young Inuit hunter took aim with his rifle he thought he had spotted a polar bear or an Arctic fox on the crest of a snow-covered hill in northern Canada.
But the photographs of his kill posted on social media by Didji Ishalook, 25, have sparked feverish interest among scientists and a fascinated public.
“They’re saying it’s a grizzly-polar bear hybrid,” he said in an interview with The Toronto Star.
Mr Ishalook had actually shot a rare cross between the two species, who normally live in very different climates.
Determining whether it is a grolar or a prizzly – depending on which species in father or mother – will have to wait for the results of DNA testing.
But its existence adds to suspicions that global warming is pushing grizzlies into polar bear territory, increasing the frequency of such couplings with potentially devastating consequences for the snow-dwelling species, according to Andrew Derocher, a professor of biological studies at the University of Alberta.
“I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically,” he told The Washington Post.
The hybrid, shot around Hudson Bay, featured the snowy pelt of the polar bear and the large head and claws of the smaller grizzly.
With sea ice melting, scientists believe the two species – which are genetically similar and can produce fertile offspring, but are considered separate species because they fail to prosper in each other's environments - will reproduce together more often.
That is bad news for the polar bear, the world's largest land predator, which is seeing its shrinking territory invaded by roaming male grizzlies.
Mr Ishalook, who caught his bear in accordance with laws that allow native peoples to hunt for small numbers of animals, said he planned to send the rare fur to a taxidermist.