For weeks, environmentalists claimed a supposed polar bear-grizzly bear hybrid that was harvested in the Canadian Arctic was proof global warming was pushing polar bears far enough south to mate with grizzlies. As it turns out, that narrative is totally false. The results of a DNA test done on the bear revealed it was just a blonde grizzly bear, not a polar-grizzly hybrid.
“The DNA lab concludes that the animal was a blonde grizzly bear and it does not have a polar bear parent,” a spokesperson for the territory of Nunavut’ environment department told Nunatsiaq News Tuesday.
It’s a sobering moment for environmentalists and even some polar bear experts who seized on the May 15th news that a “grolar” bear had been killed by a Nanavut hunter. Environmentalists said this proved global warming would force more bears to breed with grizzlies.
“All the hubris last month about polar bear x grizzly hybrids, based on an unusual-looking bear killed near Arviat, has turned out to be wishful thinking by those who’d like to blame everything to do with polar bears on climate change,” veteran zoologist and polar bear expert Susan Crockford wrote on her blog.
“An awful lot of ‘experts’ now have egg on their faces,” Crockford wrote.
News of the “grolar” bear went international, and even outlets, like The Washington Post, featured experts warning polar bears could be bred out of existence if they continue to mate with grizzlies.
“As climate change continues, terrestrial habitat is going to increase, and the likelihood is the habitat for grizzlies, a terrestrial bear, is going to get better,” Andrew Derocher, a biologist at the University of Alberta, told The Post. “That means a longer warming period and greater food potential.”
“I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically,” he said.
But hype over the “grolar” bear was misplaced.
“Some otherwise pretty renown bear biologists jumped on the hybrid bear story without even knowing what they were talking about,” Mathieu Dumond, a regional wildlife manager in Nanavut, told Nunatsiaq News. “I think it was something blown out of proportion, with the wrong information to start.”