As the climate warms, grizzly bears and polar bears cross paths – National
In May, about five years ago, a male grizzly bear awoke from hibernation and headed east, toward the Nunavut shore of Hudson Bay. He was looking for food, new territory, and a bear to mate with.
Its surroundings were slowly warming – bad news for polar bears as the sea ice shrank, but good news for grizzly bears, whose populations increase with their range.
“We have very healthy populations with improving conditions. We are probably getting more young males dispersing. They just pick a direction and go, ”says Andrew Derocher, professor of biology at the University of Alberta.
The bear has reached the shore of salt water. It’s more traditional territory for polar bears, but grizzly bears move east from the Northwest Territories and western Nunavut.
“We have these young males coming out, but when they get to these new areas, there aren’t any female grizzly bears,” Derocher says. “If there were, they would mate with female grizzly bears. But they can’t find females to mate with, which means they tend to wander further and further away.
“Some of them are walking on the ice in polar bear habitat and bumping into breeding females.”
Grizzly bears and polar bears can breed successfully, but generally polar bears are on the ice during their mating season, and grizzly bears are just emerging from hibernation, so this tends not to happen in the wild. .
In recent years, however, global warming is ending grizzly bear hibernation a little earlier than normal.
As a harsh arctic winter set in, the polar bear gave birth to a female cub of a different color than her.
Hybrid bears, call them grolar bears or pizzlies, are “pretty blonde on the back, kind of a dirty polar bear color.” Some of them almost take on a honey color.
Scientists have offers call the bears nanulak, Inuktitut words for polar bear and grizzly bear.
All of the examples known to science had a grizzly father and a polar bear mother, Derocher says. Hybrid bears are capable of reproducing themselves.
Nine have been reported since 2006.
The bear was killed near Arviat, Nunavut, on the shore of Hudson Bay about 250 kilometers north of Churchill, Man.
Local hunter Didji Ishalook reported the kill on Facebook May 15. Global News attempted to contact him, but was unsuccessful.
Indigenous communities in Nunavut are given annual polar bear hunting quotas, which they can split between subsistence hunting and income-earning non-native trophy hunters.
Self-defense killings are allowed, but count towards a community’s quota.
Large numbers of polar bears appear around Hudson Bay
Manitoba government documents show polar bear encounters on the shores of Hudson Bay have reached record levels.
It is not clear whether the hybrids behave more like grizzly bears or polar bears.
“We don’t really know how they live,” says Derocher. You’d think if mum was a polar bear and taught you how to hunt seals for two and a half years, you’d follow that pattern. Hybrids aren’t really suited to either world. They are not white, so they are not camouflaged for hunting (on ice), and they are not brown, so they are not camouflaged for hunting on land.
“They are healthy, they are growing, they are thriving. So whatever they do seems to work for them.
Hybrid bears may be a sign of bigger changes to come.
Two-thirds of Canada’s polar bears are expected to be extirpated by mid-century, with one remaining surviving in the High Arctic. In areas further south, like mainland Nunavut, grizzly bears can completely replace polar bears, with polar bears living only as a genetic oddity of local grizzly bears.
“Grizzly bears may appropriate genetic material from polar bears. You wouldn’t see any difference in grizzly bears, but a few of their genes would continue. “
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