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Pizzly, Grolar, or Polargrizz

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 9th, 2006

Grolar Bear

Late in April 2006, American hunter Jim Martell, shown here with his prize trophy, went to Canada’s far north, paying $58,570 to hunt polar bears. Now it turns out, he may have killed the first grizzly-polar bear cross ever found in the wild. The two species mate at different times of the year and inhabit vastly different regions, hence cross-breeding is a rarity.

The animal he killed is being described by local Alaskan-Canadian media as a “pizzly,” a “grolar bear” or a “polargrizz.” Media reports described it as “looking” like an animal that could be the byproduct of a grizzly mating with a polar bear. Geneticists have documented that grizzly bears ventured north some 250,000 years ago to hunt seals and that their fur turned white over time. Thus, the polar bear was born.

But look at the above trophy photograph of the bear that Martell killed. Perhaps it was merely a dirty polar bear, after all?

A laboratory in western Canada will examine a sample of the bear’s DNA, and declare what the animal is. Martell is deeply interested in those results. His hunting license only allowed him to shoot polar bears, so he may be charged with shooting the wrong animal if this animal is found to not be a Ursus maritimus, according to the AFP news service.

UPDATE

Breaking News: May 10 – Bear Is Hybrid

DNA test results for this bear shot by Jim Martell on April 16 near Nelson Head on southern Banks Island, NWT, have concluded that the bear shot was indeed a rare hybrid, the first recorded polar-grizzly bear hybrid found in the wild.

The hide will be returned to Martell, who is already back in NWT on a grizzly hunt.

Loren Coleman – has written 5491 posts on this site.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


22 Responses to “Pizzly, Grolar, or Polargrizz”

  1. Ian Sallis responds:

    Polars and Grizzlies have successfully mated in captivity.

    There are interactions between the two species in the wild. Surprisingly it is normally the larger Polar Bear that yields when the two meet at a food source.

    So there is every chance this could be a cross.

  2. kidquid responds:

    Interesting post. Sadly reminds me of recent news about polar bears drowning because the arctic ice shelf is melting (due to global climate changes), forcing them to swim across larger stretches of open ocean than they should be to reach feeding areas.

    I wonder if climate changes could be bringing these two species closer together?

    Not a good sign for our planet.

  3. feldspar helmet responds:

    It’s unfortunate that the photo shows so little of the animal. At certain times of the year the polar bears get quite yellow. That might explain the discoloration. Also both species show the “hump” on the shoulders so that’s no help. I await the DNA results. In this case it might be the only way to tell for sure. It looks like quite a young animal. If it is a pizzly lets hope it lived long enough to procreate.

  4. MattBille responds:

    This is the comment I made on my weblog when the CBC did the first report:

    CBC News is reporting that a hunter in northwest Territories shot and killed a very odd-looking bear, assuming it was a grizzly, or brown bear (Ursus arctos). On closer inspection, though, the animal, described as “dirty blonde” in color, is considered a possible hybrid that might be half grizzly and half polar bear (U. maritimus.) Canada’s Department of Environment is investigating. If confirmed, this would apparently be the first recorded case of such a hybrid in the wild.

    COMMENT: Strange bears do turn up from time to time, but the only unquestioned polar-grizzly crosses came from instances where the two species mated in a zoo. MacFarlane’s bear, a pre-World War II specimen from Northwest Territories, was yellow and weighed about 600 lbs. It was so strange that mammologist C. Hart Merriam described it as Vetularctos inopinatus “new species and genus.” Since there were never any more specimens, though, Merriam’s identification was gradually rejected or forgotten. One suggestion is that this was a grizzly-polar hybrid. The skin and skull are apparently still in the Smithsonian, and no one has ever dug them out for modern analysis. See my own Rumors of Existence (1995) and Terry Domico’s Bears of the World (1988.)

  5. feldspar helmet responds:

    One thing in favour of this claim is a similar situation which is developing in Western Canada. In the last half decade or so a new species of deer has appeared. It is a cross between the two existing deer types. The White Tailed Deer and the larger, blockier, and aptly named Mule Deer have been interbreeding. In five years this has gone from a series of sightings and rumours by hunters in British Columbia to the point where the Ministry responsible for the giving of hunting licences had to decide that -for the purposes of hunting- the new species counted as a mule deer. By officially accepting the existence of this sub species the government has gone a long way towards setting a precedent as far as cryptozoology goes. We can hope that now we might face slightly less resistance to evidence regarding new species or cross bred sub species.

  6. flickerbulbcom responds:

    bear.

    obviously.

  7. twblack responds:

    58,000 Dollars to kill something what a shame with all of the people in this world that could use help of any kind and some guy spends this much to hunt an animal. And not even hunting it to feed his family or survive. people such as this does not deserve the wealth they have achieved. And by the way I am a deer hunter here in Indiana and I only hunt to fill the freezer of food. Which is usually 1 or 2 deer a year. Not to just go out and kill something for the fun of it. And not for 58,000 dollars.

  8. youcantryreachingme responds:

    Annie (5) – and to think he paid over $50K for the privilege.

  9. Ranatemporaria responds:

    Interesting. But according to what constitutes a species (Biological Species Concept) then if Polars and grizzly’s can produce off spring, then it may not even be a ‘new species’ let alone a genus! Obviously this classification system is a hot topic in ecology at the moment and due to subjectivity as to what makes a species there is currently an issue of taxonomic inflation. We are often seeing a rise in species number, even in groups such as primates even the great apes simply due to classification problems. Don’t forget however, MOST SPECIES have not yet been described by science (May 1988) and as such there are more Cryptic species than non cryptic!

  10. MattBille responds:

    The idea of the BSC as a firm obstacle to hybridization appears to be breaking down. At the very least, it’s fraying a lot at the edges. When you have animals from different genera (“wholphins” are an example), that can create fertile hybrids, it’s clear that the basic building block of taxonomy, the species, is not nearly as neat and well defined as we used to believe. The implication for cryptozoology is that hybrids must always be considered in reports from areas where possible parent species reside.

  11. kokodhem responds:

    Hopefully the polars will start moving south and meeting/breeding with grizzly’s more often, rather than all just die out.

    Or we could relocate some of them to South Pacific islands a la Lost. ;) j/k

  12. shovethenos responds:

    I’m really surprised at these diabtribes. The guy made his money, he can spend it how he pleases. In many cases hunting and fishing fees pay for very effective and successful conservation measures. As long as he isn’t hunting endangered species or humans, there isn’t a problem.

    As far as charging the guy with a game law infraction when the scientists have to get DNA tests to prove that it isn’t a polar bear, sounds like bunk.

  13. shovethenos responds:

    A lot of this seems to come out of ignorance of nature and the natural system. You know what happens to old bears in the wild, don’t you? Eventually they can’t feed themselves and they starve. Now which is better – them starving to death or hunting licenses being issued, which actually fund conservation efforts?

  14. timi_hendrix responds:

    Another reason why hunting is ignorant.

    Always shooting first and asking questions later.

  15. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    shovethenos makes VERY valid points. I’m a hunter, and I only hunt for meat, not trophies.

    But my uncle is a taxidermist and pays his bills and feeds his family from the money guys like Martell spend. Likewise, of that $50K he spent a small amount went to licenses and tags, that pay for conservation, and the bulk went to the guides and trackers and outfitters and others who helped get him there and back.

    That is a LOT of dough spread around to a lot of families for ONE animal. A lot more than the average farm family gets for a cow, for instance.

    You can find hunting morally repugnant if you like, and I personally wouldn’t spend that much to harvest a “trophy” (shoot, I haven’t even hunted since coming to Texas because I won’t pay to access someone’s land), but there is no need to insult individuals who make their living as guides and outfitters. These people have found a way to continue living close to nature making MUCH less impact that they would by logging, mining, etc.

    Also, as the people out there in the field every day, they are the most likely to see new cryptids and to recognize them as such. We would be wise, as a community, not to alienate such people by insulting their profession.

  16. shovethenos responds:

    Jeremy Wells-

    Of course your analogy ends at people – we don’t exploit one person for the benefit of a “lot of families” – that’s called slavery.

  17. Oleannder responds:

    I think it’s disgusting that if you have money then you are justified in killing a species that is already in trouble.

    Hunting, real hunting, is a means to provide food on your table, not some gross way a wealthy man can get his rocks off. (with a little help from some wilderness guides).

    I’m not some animal advocate or anything but I was disgusted by this news.

  18. MattBille responds:

    It would have been interesting to observe the behavior of such a bear – which parents would it take after?

    Remember:
    Grizzly bear = dangerous
    Polar bear = very dangerous
    Bi-polar bear = extremely dangerous.

    Matt Bille

  19. shovethenos responds:

    Bears often have two or even three cubs in a litter. There’s a fair chance there’s another hybrid out there, possibly more.

  20. drnoelkelly responds:

    I am not a hunter but I fail to see how anyone cannot find it pretty dismal that a couple of weeks after the polar bear has been added to the world’s Red List of Threatened Species some guy goes out and shoots one (albeit an extremely rare cross breed).

    Surely if this guy and his guide were bona-fide hunters (ie interested and concerned for the animal they hunt) they would have known about the Red Listing and state of the species long before it was plastered all over the world news?

    The guide makes a living so his objective is clear (short term personal gain like a dynamite fisherman) but what is the client thinking??

  21. shovethenos responds:

    drnoelkelly-

    This was a legitimate hunt, or else he would have been charged with a crime already. (They were talking about charging him because he had a permit to hunt polar bears, not grizzlies.) Polar bear populations are robust in certain areas, I assume these areas are where they issue hunting permits. I could be wrong, but I don’t think a hybrid was intentionally shot, I think they thought it was a polar bear.

  22. drnoelkelly responds:

    shovethenos – I was not implying that this hunter chap should be arrested or charged with an offence but rather at what thoughts are running through his head (assuming he is a ‘proper hunter’) to justify the sport/fun killing of a ‘red listed species’.



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