Grizzly-polar bear hybrid could be result of climate change

A female pizzly bear (Didji Ishalook / Facebook)
A female pizzly bear (Didji Ishalook / Facebook)

Climate change could be behind the appearance of a strange bear in northern Canada -- it's not quite a polar bear, but it's not quite a grizzly bear either.

They're known as 'pizzly bears', or 'grolar bears' -- depending on whether the father is a polar or grizzly bear respectively.

When hunter Didji Ishalook first stumbled across a pizzly near Arviat, a hamlet on the shore of Canada's Hudson Bay, he thought it was a small polar bear.

It wasn't until he got closer that he realised it wasn't.

"It turned out to be a grizzly half-breed," Mr Ishalook says.

The odd creatures are usually quite rare, but a researcher says they're becoming more common as a result of climate change.

As their habitat warms, the grizzly bears are moving further north, where they overlap with the territory of the polar bears. While the grizzlies move up, the polar bears are spending more time on land as their hunting land of the Arctic ice melts.

The result is more frequent sightings of pizzlies.

Bear biologist Chris Servheen told the Guardian he expects more of an overlap between the two bear species.

And because the two species are genetically similar, males from both species are attracted to the females.

"We are looking at an evolutionary change in the long term where overlaps are increasing and polar bears don't have a lot of options," Mr Servheen says.

But will it lead to more pizzlies roaming the land?

"It will be hundreds of generations before we really see a new type of bear," Mr Servheen says.