The bears were at 73 degrees North latitude, well north of the usual grizzly habitat. What first appeared to be a polar bear turned out to be a hybrid, something still rare but becoming increasingly common as warming temperatures send grizzly bears farther north.
According to Yale’s environment360:
Up until about 20 years ago, sightings of grizzlies in the High Arctic were relatively rare. But that began to change as a succession of brown bears started showing up on the Arctic islands, following caribou perhaps that routinely cross over from the mainland. No one had seriously thought that these grizzlies would eventually mate with polar bears until Roger Kuptana, an Inuit guide from Sachs Harbour on Banks Island, led an American hunter to one in the spring of 2006. The killing of that animal made headlines around the world.
This is not the first time climate change has led to hybrid bears. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Buffalo traced genome sequences of a polar bear, three brown bears and a black bear. In addition, they were able to study samples from 23 other polar bears, including one that had lived some 120,000 years ago. They found that although polar bears and brown bears became two separate species 4 to 5 million years ago, they had interbred during a time of warming climate half a million years ago.
Next: New Hybrid Spotted by Hunter
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