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Grizzly–polar bear hybrid

A grizzly–polar bear hybrid is a rare ursid hybrid that has occurred both in captivity and in the wild. In 2006, the occurrence of this hybrid in nature was confirmed by testing the DNA of a strange-looking bear that had been shot in the Canadian arctic.[1] Previously, the hybrid had been produced in zoos and was considered a "cryptid" (a hypothesized animal for which there is no scientific proof of existence in the wild).  

A number of polar bear hybrids are described as Ursid hybrid, a term that designates any hybrid of two species within the Ursidae family. Polar bear hybrids with Kodiak bears have been reported and shot, but DNA techniques were not available to verify the bears' ancestry.


Occurrences in the wild

  With one confirmed case and other suspected sightings, zoologists are theorizing how wild hybrids might come into being. Although the two species are genetically similar and often are found in the same territories, they tend to avoid each other in the wild. They also fill different ecological niches. Grizzlies (and also Kodiak bears and "Alaskan Brown Bears," which are all subspecies of the Brown bear Ursus arctos) tend to live and breed on land. Polar bears prefer the water and ice, usually breeding on the ice. Some theories suggest that global warming has caused the ice to thin resulting in the polar bears being unable to hunt or "live" in their natural habitat.[2] Because of this they have moved further inland, and it is believed that this has increased the frequency of hybrids. As the huge yellowish-white MacFarlane's Bear, a mysterious animal known only from one specimen acquired in 1864, seems to attest, grizzly-polar bear hybrids may well have always occurred from time to time.

2006 discovery

Jim Martell, a hunter from the United States, found and shot a grizzly–polar bear hybrid near Sachs Harbour on Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada, reportedly on April 16, 2006.[1] Martell had been hunting for polar bears with an official license and a guide, at a cost of $50,000, and killed the animal believing it to be a normal polar bear. Officials took interest in the creature after noticing that it had thick, creamy white fur, typical of polar bears, as well as long claws; a humped back; a shallow face; and brown patches around its eyes, nose, and back, and having patches on one foot, which are all traits of grizzly bears. If the bear had been adjudicated to be a grizzly, he would have faced a possible CAN$1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. [3]

A DNA test conducted by Wildlife Genetics International in British Columbia confirmed that it was a hybrid, with the mother a polar bear and the father a grizzly.[1] It is the first documented case in the wild,[4] though it was known that this hybrid was biologically possible and other ursid hybrids have been bred in zoos in the past.

Amidst much controversy, the bear has since been returned to Martell."[5]


Since the 2006 discovery placed the hybrid into the spotlight, the media have referred to this animal with several portmanteau names, such as pizzly, grolar bear, [6] and polizzly; but there is no consensus on the use of any one of these terms. Canadian wildlife officials have suggested calling the hybrid "Nanulak," taken from the Inuit names for polar bear (Nanuk) and grizzly bear (Aklak).[7] By one convention[8] the name of the sire comes first in such combinations: the offspring of a male Polar bear and a female Grizzly would be a "Pizzly bear," while the offspring of a male Grizzly and a female Polar bear would be a "Grolar bear." If the remains of MacFarlane's 1864 specimen - which was validly described according to ICZN rules - would be traced and confirmed to be such a hybrid by ancient DNA techniques, the scientific name Ursus × inopinatus would be available for these animals.


  1. ^ a b c "Wild find: Half grizzly, half polar bear: Hunter bags what expert 'never thought would happen' in wild",, May 11, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-05-14. 
  2. ^ Pennisi, E.: "U.S. Weighs Protection for Polar Bears", Science, 315(5805):25
  3. ^ "Hunter Shoots Hybrid Bear", Associated Press, 2006-05-12. Retrieved on 2006-06-18. 
  4. ^ "Polar bear or Grizzly - how about Pizzly?", IOL, May 10, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-05-14. 
  5. ^ "Rare hybrid bear comes to a trophy", Associated Press, 2007-01-21. Retrieved on 2007-01-21. 
  6. ^ "Hunter may have shot grolar bear – or was it pizzly?", CBC North, 26 April 2006.
  7. ^ "Hybrid bear shot dead in Canada," BBC Science, 13 May 2006
  8. ^ Naming Conventions A semi-scientific reference for hybrid naming conventions, with specific examples of big-cat hybrids.


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Grizzly–polar_bear_hybrid". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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