North

DNA tests confirm hunter shot 'grolar bear'

Scientists testing the DNA of a strange bear shot in the N.W.T. last month have confirmed it was a hybrid of polar bear and grizzly – perhaps the first ever seen in the wild.

Scientists testing the DNA of a strange bear shot in the N.W.T. last month have confirmed it was a hybrid of polar bear and grizzly – perhaps the first ever seen in the wild.

Jim Martell, a sport hunter from the United States, was on a guided hunt when he shot the animal on April 16 near Nelson Head on southern Banks Island.

Since the bear looked like an odd-coloured polar bear, the outfitter turned the hide over to the territory's Environment and Natural Resources department for testing.

By comparing the DNA from the bear with DNA previously collected from polar bears in the area and with DNA previously collected from grizzly bears along the coast south of the area, the analysis confirmed that this bear was a hybrid.

Officials say this could be the first recorded polar/grizzly bear hybrid found in the wild.

Bears would rather make war, not love

It was considered nearly impossible for the two species to mate, since polar bears mate on the ice, while grizzlies mate on land.

"It's a total surprise," says Roger Kuptana, Martell's guide. He says the relationship between polar and grizzly bears is usually more adversarial.

"Some of the elders here in town say in the past there's been grizzly sightings but usually they fight."

Additional analyses are underway to determine if the mother was a grizzly bear or a polar bear and to determine the age of the bear.

Martel had a tag for a polar bear, but conservation officers were threatening to charge him with shooting a grizzly. That could have landed him 12 months in jail.

Martel wasn't very happy, having spent $50,000 on his trip. He was worried he wouldn't be take the hide back home with him to Idaho.

ENR will return the hide to Martel, who is already back in the N.W.T.… to shoot a grizzly.

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