On 28 May last week a big grizzly (probably a male) was spotted on the shore of Wapusk National Park just south of Churchill, Manitoba but unless he heads out onto the sea ice, he has no chance of finding a polar bear female to mate with. Even if he does, he is unlikely to find a polar bear female willing to mate: most polar bears mate late March to early May (Smith and Aars 2015). Brown bears (called grizzlies across most of North America) mate later in the year, from late May to July, which means finding hybrids here is highly unlikely.
A few tundra grizzlies from the Northwest Territories have been spotted moving southeast into the Hudson Bay area since 2008. There was some media-and-expert-generated excitement back in 2016 when a hunter shot what he thought might have been a grizzly/polar bear hybrid near Arviat but it turned out to be a blonde grizzly, which are not uncommon in the tundra population from which it came. A similar result came from recent genetic study: samples from two pale blonde grizzlies from the North Slope of Alaska that looked remarkably like polar bear hybrids were not only unrelated to each other but showed no evidence of being hybrids (Lan et al. 2016 Supplementary data, pg. 3).
Contrary to some predictions, grizzly/polar bear hybrids are still quite rare (Crockford 2018:23).Continue reading