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. An awful lot of “experts” now have egg on their faces. That “hybrid” was just a blonde grizzly, as I warned it might.
According to one report, Nunavut wildlife manager Mathieu Dumond said:
“Some otherwise pretty renown bear biologists jumped on the hybrid bear story without even knowing what they were talking about,” Dumond said.
“I think it was something blown out of proportion, with the wrong information to start.”
Gee, ya think? CBC ran a story too. But the CBC don’t really admit (see below) that they were the first out of the gate on this story and started the media madness. It was the CBC that relied on the opinion of a black bear expert from Minnesota (who likely only saw a picture) – but since he was willing to say it was a hybrid and that its presence was a sign of climate change, they went with it. See “Grolar or pizzly? Experts say rare grizzly-polar bear hybrid shot in Nunavut: Expert says interbreeding may be happening more frequently due to climate change” (CBC 18 May 2016).
For background, see these recent posts on this putative hybrid and the issues on hybridization it spawned:
Another alleged grizzly-polar bear hybrid shot but it’s not a sign of climate change
Polar bear hybrid update: samples sent for DNA testing to rule out blonde grizzly
Five facts that challenge polar bear hybridization nonsense
Most polar bear hybrids said to exist have not been confirmed by DNA testing
Blonde grizzlies, like the one pictured below (which I posted the day the story broke), are actually a proven sign of natural variation within species – a critical lesson in biology that should be the take-home message here. [ADDED: 2007 Alaska Fish & Wildlife Service Newsletter article on colour variation in black and brown/grizzly bears. h/t Wayne D]
“Paging Professor Derocher”: PBSG biologist and University of Alberta professor Andrew Derocher gave so many interviews to the media on this issue I lost count – he fed the media frenzy almost single-handedly. Well, except for granddaddy of polar bear experts Ian Stirling, who said (via the Toronto Star):
“I think it’s 99 per cent sure that it’s going to turn out to be a hybrid,” said Ian Stirling, an emeritus research scientist with Environment Canada and adjunct professor at the University of Alberta.”
Quotes from today’s story below.