DNA Test Confirms Hybrid Bear in the Wild
A DNA test has confirmed what zoologists, hunters and aboriginal trackers in the far northern reaches of Canada have dreamed of for years: the first documented case of a grizzly-polar bear in the wild.
Roger Kuptana, an Inuit tracker from the Northwest Territories, suspected the American hunter he was guiding had shot a hybrid bear after noticing its white fur was spotted brown and it had the long claws and slightly humped back of a grizzly.
Territorial officials seized the bear's body and a DNA test from Wildlife Genetics International, a lab in British Columbia, confirmed the hybrid was born of a polar bear mother and grizzly father.
"It's something we've all known was theoretically possible because their habitats overlap a little bit and their breeding seasons overlap a little bit," said Ian Stirling, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Edmonton, Alberta. "It's the first time it's known to have happened in the wild."
Stirling said polar bears and grizzlies have been successfully paired in zoos and that their offspring are fertile, but there had been no documented case in the wild.
That might explain how a grizzly got to the region, but few can explain how it managed to get along with a polar bear long enough to mate.