A hunter in northern Canada shot what is hypothesized to be a polar-grizzly bear hybrid and sent DNA samples of the bear out for testing.
The two different types of bears are found in different ecological settings. Some experts suggest that melting of Arctic ice will increasingly bring polar and grizzly bears into contact with each other, BBC reports.
"It looks like a polar bear but it’s got brown paws and big claws like a grizzly," Didji Ishalook, 25, who killed the bear, told The Guardian.
"I think it's 99 percent sure that it's going to turn out to be a hybrid," Ian Stirling, an emeritus research scientist at Environment Canada told the Toronto Star.
The name of the bear depends on the father's subspecies, or whether or not the father is a polar or grizzly bear. If the father is a polar bear, then the child is a "pizzly," while the child is called a "grolar" if the father is a grizzly bear.
Sightings of pizzlies and grolars have historically been rare. Only a handful have been confirmed in the past 10 years.
Experts differ over whether or not this sighting is related to changes in the climate. Dave Garshelis of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources argues that it most certainly is: "With climate change, grizzly bears are moving further north, so there is more overlap between grizzly bears and polar bears in terms of their range. There are even American black bears that are moving further north. And a few black bears have been spotted outside of Arviat [in Canada]."
Professor Andrew Derocher from University of Alberta said it was unusual in the sense that the two different subspecies would have to be living in close proximity to each other.
"The unusual thing here is how did a male grizzly bear bump into a female polar bear ... Most of the mating activity of polar bears is occurring out on the sea ice, so there's a spatial discontinuity between where a grizzly bear would be in the spring and where a polar bear would be in the spring."
Not everybody believes this is the case. Nunavut biologist Malik Awan said: "We can’t say specifically, 'this is because of climate change.' There’s many possible reasons. For example, there’s a lot going on in grizzly habitat in the South like habitat change, loss and fragmentation."
The news is not good for the future of polar bears.
"It is not a good thing for the future of polar bears that we see this hybridization occurring," Chris Servheen, a bear expert, told Vice News. "And it’s not going to result in some kind of new bear that is successfully living in the Arctic."