Ivory-Billeds & Idaho Grizzlies: Coming Quests

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 24th, 2007

Grizzly Bear

This file photo shows a grizzly bear moving through the brush in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. (Courtesy: Yellowstone National Park)

In September 2007, a black bear hunter “mistakenly” shot and killed a grizzly bear in the “rugged Idaho terrain near Kelly Creek about three miles from the Montana border,” according to the Associated Press.

The 450-pound male grizzly killed by the unidentified hunter on Labor Day, September 3rd was shot in the North Fork of the Clearwater Drainage about 20 miles north of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness boundary and within the 25,000-square-mile Bitterroot Experimental Population Area. It was the first grizzly bear verified since 1946 on the Idaho side of the 5,700-square-mile Selway-Bitteroot ecosystem in central Idaho and western Montana.

Genetic testing on the bear that was killed found it’s likely a descendent from a population roaming in northern Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains. Biologists say the bear migrated 140 miles south and crossed two major highways to explore the northern fringes of an ecosystem experts have been expecting bears to discover on their own for years.

Due to that, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will be using motion-sensitive cameras and special fur grabbers to catch hair that can be examined for DNA in a massive search for grizzlies.

The agencies plan to search a 5,000-square-mile area for grizzly bears in north-central Idaho and western Montana next summer. The last time the area underwent an extensive survey for grizzlies was in 1991 and 1992. This year’s proposed survey would likely start in May if snow levels allowed access, and continue through September 2008.

The $60,000 Idaho grizzly search must still be funded.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

Meanwhile, in August 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a 185-page draft plan aimed at “staving off the extinction of the ivory-billed woodpecker,” based on the one confirmed sighting from the 2004 Arkansas videotape. (Famous bird book author David Sibley has publicly questioned the findings of the Cornell University researchers, which hold this is an ivory-billed and not a pileated woodpecker. ) The plan recommends spending $27 million (all federal dollars) on “recovery work” in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.

Concepts for pursuits planned are not necessarily quests that are funded, but they usually are if proposed by these agencies.

Meanwhile, remember, you never can tell what you might find when you go looking for other things. Just ask Jim Martell.

hybrid mount

The world’s first recorded polar bear-grizzly bear hybrid sits mounted in the Idaho home of hunter Jim Martell on January 12, 2007. DNA tests demonstrated that the bear, which was shot in the Canadian Arctic last year, had a grizzly father and a polar bear mother.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

15 Responses to “Ivory-Billeds & Idaho Grizzlies: Coming Quests”

  1. DWA responds:

    Seriously, sort of, my question. If those scientists devoted the same effort to confirming the sasquatch that they’re devoting to looking for a species we already know exists – and is threatened by habitat loss more than anything else – don’t you think we could possibly get enough habitat saved to help the griz, without even looking for it? Just thought I’d ask.

  2. Bob K. responds:

    A very attractive hybrid indeed. The question that crosses my mind is this; dont grizzlies and polar bears occupy a different ecological niche in regards to hunting/dietary habits? I imagine that there are other such “lifestyle” differences between grizzlies and polar bears as well-with some physical differences that would cause it to be so. It makes me wonder whether such a cross could survive as a full blooded polar bear would (I imagine that the bear would be raised by the mother, and so would learn to live as a polar bear). Would its particular genetic makeup cause it to exhibit grizzly behavior as well? I suppose that my first question was at least partly answered by the fact that this animal apparently reached at least young adulthood (tho’ its estimated age wasnt given), but I’m under the impression that grizzlies dont live like polar bears because they are arent naturally equipped to, and visa-versa.

  3. planettom responds:

    Wow! $27M for the IBW versus $60K for the grizzly. $27M would buy a lot of trailcams, that’s for sure. 🙂 It just seems a little excessive. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for “staving off the extinction of the IBW”, but I think some more evidence would be wise. Maybe asking for too much will at least guarantee them something? Ask for more than you need so you will get at least as much as you need.

    I have family moving into Northern Mississippi next year, and I hope to take a trip through the Pearl River Bason in AK. I will have my camera ready!

    That hybrid polar-grizzly looks like a beautiful creature. I remember reading about the kill, but I think this is the first picture I’ve seen of it.

  4. squatch-toba responds:

    Hi all,…Polar bears & Grizzly bears do share some habitats in the wild. In the North West Territories, Nunivet, and , on rare occasion, the northern prairie provinces. ( Alaska also!!) I think it’s great to see this type of reseach going on…best of luck to all involved…including the critters!!!

  5. kittenz responds:

    I have often seen this particular bear referred to as “the world’s first recorded polar bear-grizzly bear hybrid”. It should be referred to as “the world’s first documented wild polar bear/grizzly bear hybrid”. Test matings in zoos, as well as some accidental matings, have occurred and the hybrid offspring are as viable as the purebred offspring of either species. That is not too surprising, since it’s thought that the polar bear diverged from the brown bear very recently, and grizzly bears are considered to be conspecific with brown bears.

    Other subspecies of brown bears are known to have produced hybrid offspring with polar bears in captivity too. A male polar bear accidentally got into an enclosure with a female Kodiak bear at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. They had (I believe), three cubs. One of the hybrids was named Willy. He was very similar to this bear in appearance. He lived at the zoo for several years. He grew to be HUGE. Maybe he was an instance of the type of “growth dysplaysia” that occurs in male ligers; I do not know and I have not seen any documentation of that. Often hybrid animals grow to be larger than animals of either parent species. Apparently, though, test matings were carried out between some of the hybrid offspring, and they were able to breed successfully with each other, producing living cubs, so in that way they were unlike most ligers, the males of which are usually sterile. That’s another indication that polar bears and brown bears are closely related.

  6. Loren Coleman responds:

    One of my favorite terms from my 1960s’ undergraduate studies in zoology was “hybrid vigor.” It seemed to so clearly capture what happened in one clear phrase.

    Today, I understand the term more frequently used is heterosis (instead of “hybrid vigor” or “outbreeding enhancement”) to describe the increased strength of different characteristics in hybrids; the possibility to obtain a “better” individual by combining the virtues of its parents.

    Still, I like “hybrid vigor.”

    I’ve seen it in action, and it does occur.

  7. mystery_man responds:

    Loren, I am partial to the term “hybrid vigor” myself and the 60s were way before my time. The word still gets plenty of play from myself. And yes, it most definitely does occur.

  8. dogu4 responds:

    I always enjoy these “exception to the rule” scenarios with nature…there are so many, I think a compendium of them would stack-up nicely against the rules themselves…and hybridizations, both wild and non-wild, really highlight the unexamined relationships and intricacies of the natural processes and we are learning a lot…huzzah!
    As far as cryptids are concerned, I think there might be a better chance of uncovering hard evidence of unidentified cryptids like Sasquatch while we’re using good science technique in pursuing other already known but persistently evasive species.

  9. Munnin responds:

    Very interesting! Thanks for another great article (as usual). I’m glad to see an increase in the present range of our Brown bears; I doubt we’ll see them moving back here to California any time soon, though. And I’ve seen Pileated woodpeckers several times… they are very impressive birds. But what an amazing thing it would be to see a living Ivory Bill! Like Bob K., I wonder about the viability of a Polar/Grizzly bear hybrid in the wild, especially when raised in typical Polar bear habitat. My understanding is that Polar bears have genetic adaptations (in the hair and feet, among other features) which pre-dispose them to survival in their icy habitat on a strictly carnivorous diet. Could a hybrid without the same kind of hollow, translucent fur, the larger feet, and the shorter claws, etc., survive to maturity? It’s fun to consider the possibility, anyway.

  10. mystery_man responds:

    The thing that is sad for me is that sometimes this kind of money or resources isn’t adequately put into the conservation of the species BEFORE it becomes extinct or severely threatened. All too often you get some species that were wiped out by man, either intentionally or not, and then suddenly a surviving one is found and everyone wants to pour money in to save the it. Hindsight sure is 20/20, wouldn’t you say? I tend to favor a more holistic approach in that I’d like to see more money spent now on species that are not yet quite on the brink, before it is too late.

    Motion sensitive cameras and “fur grabbers”? These guys are getting all the cool toys. Best of luck to them. Maybe those sort of fur grabbers could be employed with sasquatch research as well.

  11. AlbertaSasquatch responds:

    27 Million!Just because one small group of people supposedly caught a IBW on film. Oh yeah but they were from Cornell so thats why. How many sightings of IBW have there been in the last 5 or so decades. Now how many Sasquatch sightings have there been in the last 5 or so decades. I bet theres thousands more Sasquatch sightings than IBW sightings. I’ve seen a clip from the film and I think the PGF looks a lot better than that. Ah but it was a species known to once have existed and may still exist. We need a body folks because if they are willing to fork out 27 million for an animal that small, just think what they would fork out for sasquatch if it was proved to be real. 270 million maybe lol.

  12. paleobrute responds:

    DOGU: “As far as cryptids are concerned, I think there might be a better chance of uncovering hard evidence of unidentified cryptids like Sasquatch while we’re using good science technique in pursuing other already known but persistently evasive species.”

    Exactly. That’s why it’s so bemusing to see Bigfoot Bleevers mew about “Well, Bigfoot lives in places where nobody goes!” to which I reply Well then- how does anyone ever see these Bigfoot? Then the Lack Of Bigfoot Proof apologists stutter and stammer and explain: “Well…well…there are no SCIENTIFIC RESEARCHERS working in Bigfoot area because science refuses to send researchers and so there’s a lack of scientifically acceptable proof (or even evidence)!” to which I reply: Well now…why does it have to a “Bigfoot Expedition” per se -? There are PLENTY of scientific studies going on in alleged Bigfoot territory which if Bigfoot existed would almost certainly have afforded opportunities for wildlife researchers and photographers to capture definitive proof even if only ‘coincidentally’. In other words, I don’t have to be specifically hunting Bigfoot to see Bigfoot. If I’m a wildlife photographer in the Cascades up in the Pacific Northwest sitting in a blind waiting to get a shot of ‘known’ wildlife and a Bigfoot saunters by, I’d certainly take his photo. The response from the Bleever ranks?…………….

  13. paleobrute responds:

    AlbertaSasquatch responds:
    December 2nd, 2007 at 3:00 pm
    “…Ah but it was a species known to once have existed and may still exist.”

    Yes, exactly- especially since that species is also KNOWN to have existed fairly recently (with the last century). There is no proof that Bigfoot EVER existed and only very flimsy ‘evidence’ Bigfoot exists now.

  14. DWA responds:


    Your complaint can be answered in one sentence: amateurs are the only ones looking for the sasquatch, and when they are asked questions, they come up with funny answers.

    OK, two sentences. If you have seen a sas, no matter who you are, you are suddenly either a liar, or a nut.

    Truth is, LOTS of people are seeing these animals. As I always say to folks here: RSR! (That is: read sighting reports.) They are not “flimsy” evidence, as I’ve explained many times in many ways on this site. (I’m all over Cryptomundo; just do a search on “sasquatch evidence.”)

    Sasquatch, like wolverines, wolves, grizzlies and bighorn sheep, tend to live in places people don’t go. But they frequently go to places people DO go. Which is why they are seen, not so rarely, but so often. Many sightings – contrary to what bleevers will tell you – are of sas looking into people’s windows. MANY – in fact most – are by hunters and motorists. What I call the urban-ignoramus arguments against – why no body? Why no photo? Why no hunter etc.? – tend to be, well, ignorant and naive. And scientists – who should really know better – use them.

    Ask yourself this question: if you saw one – even if you got a clear photo – who would you come running back and blatt to? Hmmmm? (Before you answer, think of what happened to the Patterson-Gimlin film – a film that shows the subject, contrary to what seems popular belief, pretty damn clearly.)


    Which is why I say the sas could be bigger, dumber, and more numerous than whatever the hell its numbers are, and still be unconfirmed by science.

    Which is not the same thing as LOTS of people seeing them.

    How many wildlife biologists, photographers, loggers, motorists, etc. do YOU think are keeping their lips pretty tightly sealed about what they’ve seen – some about what they’ve seen in the course of doing scientific research? (Heck. How many of them put a mask on, and make posts like yours on sites like this?)

    My bet? More than any of us would estimate.

    How many wild wolves or wolverines have you seen? Just checking.

    Ask John Mionczynski. If you don’t know who he is, or think I’m BSing you, you need to read more. Because most of the people who have filed sighting reports were just like you – until they saw one.

    Here’s a good place to start. I found this article a useful litmus test for scientific open-mindedness:


    Read at your own risk. 😉

  15. dogu4 responds:

    Thanks DWA. Your take on this is about as reasonable and straightforward as it can be. Thanks for making it so clear.

    I do have some suggestions as to research techniques which address why I think they have been only marginally successful and they inturn have to do with my feelings as to how these creatures have been characterized in the sense of their being naturally behaving creatures with some superior adaptations and intelligences which put them outside the mainstream of smart predators like wolves, wolverines and mountain lions, but the commonly held perceptons are understandable ( and might actually work if pursued persistently) considering how our generally correct understanding of our natural history’s past and present is percieved by most people who are informed by the current accepted explaination of the way it is here and now.
    I’m a bit of a geek on this…but I think it’s based on some unique perspective and experiences, untainted by orthodoxy, so to speak.
    So, Paleobrute, what say you?

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