Rare Grizzly - Polar Bear Hybrid Hunted
    By Sarda Sahney | August 22nd 2007 10:15 AM | 20 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sarda

    Sarda Sahney is a Ph.D. student at the University of Bristol studying macroevolution, with focus on the evolution of vertebrate communities. View Sarda's Profile

    A recent issue of Nature celebrated Linnaeus’ 300th birthday with a series of editorials, essays and features on the continuing work of taxonomists. One of the more provocative articles discusses the definition of species, including the status of the beloved polar bear, Ursus maritimus.

    Polar bears are more closely related to some brown bears (Ursus arctos) then some brown bears are to each other. While the interrelationships of these species (and subspecies) is a surprise, it has long been known that the animals are closely related and has been evidenced (rarely) by the hybridization of the polar bear and the grizzly bear, Ursus arctos horribilis.

    This hybrid, though extremely rare, has occurred in captivity and has long been storied in arctic legends. In 1864 biologist, Clinton Hart Merriam, described an animal killed at Rendezvous Lake, Northwest Territories, Canada as "buffy whitish with a golden brown muzzle". A century later, Clara Helgason remembers a bear shot by hunters on Kodiak Island during her childhood in 1943 as "a large, off-white bear with hair all over his paws".

    The most recent sighting of the rare hybrid was made, unfortunately, after its death. On April 16, 2006, Jim Martell, a sport hunter from the United States, shot a grizzly–polar bear hybrid near on Banks Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. Martell had paid $50,000, for an official license and a guide to hunt polar bears in Canada’s arctic.

    Martell shot what appeared, at a distance, to be a polar bear but officials noticed that beyond the thick, creamy white fur, typical of polar bears, the animal also had long claws; a humped shoulder, scoop-shaped snout and brown patches around its eyes. The hybrid was confirmed by a DNA test.

    The government returned the carcass to Martell. Though the hybrid species has no conservational value (like white tigers ), it is an amazing phenomenon and I am sad the hunter kept his prize. I think he should have been compensated and asked to donate the pelt to a museum where others could learn about the phenomenon.

    Lastly, I will note that the US government is considering giving polar bears a ‘threatened’ status. The Canadian government has a different perspective as anecdotal evidence from aboriginals and official wildlife surveys indicate the polar bear population in Canada actually appears to be growing. This of course is a notion that doesn’t appeal to Prime Minister Steven Harper, as he is a proponent of climate change and the growing polar bear population does not fit well into his campaign. But that is a debate for another posting.

    Regardless of controversy surrounding these amazing animals I hate that the government advocates rich people throwing out $50,000 for the opportunity to shoot one of these creatures. It is one more example of how Canada continues to sell its natural resources and decimate its environment for a few greenbacks.

    Marris, E. 2007. Linnaeus at 300: The species and the specious. Nature 446, 250-253.

    Roach, J. May 16, 2006. Grizzly-polar bear hybrid found -- but what does it mean? National Geographic News.


    Jim Martell, you are a Criminal. How do you get exited killing animals? God bless you

    Jim Martell and other psychotic sport hunters are murderers. The insensible and barbaric governments that issue sport hunting licenses for people to enjoy their sick pleasures and sadistic fantasies are collaborators. Such people as Jim Martell are only symptoms of a very-very sick system we are living in. They are not to be blamed, but educated by good people about empathy and the right way of living, the way of the good.

    excuse me but the right of way of living and sensible living is the basic food chain of life. just because you hunt with a weapon does not mean you are considered a horrible or sick human being. governments hold plenty of regulated hunts to keep animal population don't want deer jumping out in front of you and your kids in the car everyday do you? there for its more of a sport hunt. sick system? hell no. its called hunting and gathering...its been around since this world was inhabited. trust me there is not enough of these remote $50,000 hunts granted from the government to make a noticeable depletion of bears .the fact that this rare hybrid animal was hunted and was mistaken for a polar bear is irrelevant to call martell a horrible or sick person...its more of an amazing thing because now we have been able to DNA test and research a new species of polar-grizzly bear and figure out more about its relation to the opposite species of bear and the migratory patterns of them. hats off to you martell! nice kill, and i would have mount that bear with much pride in my own home as well. this reply above is problably from a one- tract minded, confused vegan who doesnt understand the history and nature of man and beast .

    I'm not a Vegan but I am a human who knows killing animals for sport is no different than murder. Perhaps that would be a better sport,hunting animals like Martell and you. Your obviously a coward you hide behind an anonymous label. It is illegal to kill Polar Bears except if your an Inuit and you can sell your soul if your one of them. There is a Native American belief that before you can get into heaven you will face every animal you have encountered in your life time and they will decide if you get into heaven. I pray its true because I pray people like you burn in hell for senselessly killing creatures of this earth.To kill for food is one thing,to kill for sport is an obscene obsession like Jeffery Dahmer! Martell should be tracked down and shot just like he did to this bear! May God have mercy on his and others like him because I damn sure wouldn't! Coward!

    I dont really get your point. So its about keeping populations down? Us "humans" should really be hunted and for what I know that is ilegal and our populations seriously growns. I dont know whats your problem with other peoples opinion. You can have your but dont question other peoples. We "humans" might be doing the best for us but we are not thinking about anything else. Hunting is discuting in my opinion. Have you searched how many animals we have extingued? Seriously you should start searching!

    Gerhard Adam
    ...its called hunting and gathering...

    No it's not.  It's called pretending.  I have no problem with hunters that go out and kill an animal and use the meat.  However, when someone has to hire a guide to avoid getting lost and to avoid the risks of actually hunting, then let's not pretend that this is some sort of primeval connection between modern man and our primitive ancestors.

    This is simply an expensive hobby and resembles hunting in the same way that paint-by-numbers resembles art.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Heads off to you I promised you from Russia and the U.S. Matter of time.

    Too bad you didn't have the guts to sign your name anonymous coward. The confusion is yours. Man, as proven through countless studies, is and always has been a frugivore. If you were were meant to hunt animals you would have claws..not soft fingers. Human fingers are for picking fruit and the like. Dental records over thousands of years confirm this.

    Get an education, coward.

    Hey Jimmy boy: On the Nat Geo channel you said the hybrid bear you shot was "a beautiful animal". Well, yeah, till you murdered her. News flash-dead animals are not beautiful. They are just a stuffed replica of the mighty, strong beasts they used top be. You said you are "proud to have it at your home." Nice consolation for the now dead body of the once life loving animal. The rarest bear on earth could have been left in the wild to maybe strengthen the perhaps new species, but no, Jimmy must kill to satisfy his predator lust. You are a pervert and a moron. I don't wish any ill of you, but if I ever hear of a bear or other animal you are trying to kill getting you instead, I will be happy for that animal that was unfortunate enough to come into your sights. When you go to your “Happy Hunting Ground” in the sky, I hope you get buried with all the stuffed dead animal bodies you have made.

    Bunch of sissys dont think that bear would eat you he would in a heartbeat laws of nature. Untill you understand that we are all screwed.

    Gerhard Adam
    I don't believe you're silly enough to believe that sport hunting qualifies as any sort of "law of nature".  The problem here is that you have a bunch of wanna-be hunters paying professionals to go out and simply slaughter animals for their trophy.  In truth, this "hunter" couldn't have found his way to the Northwest Territories without assistance, so it's hardly likely that there was any "hunting" involved.

    Just for the record, I'm not opposed to hunting, nor am I opposed to killing animals for food, etc.  I am however opposed to the posturing and nonsense that passes for outdoorsmanship and hunting these days.  I'm quite sure that for $50,000 this "hunter" had a backup that could ensure that the bear was killed in case he screwed up.  Sorry, but that's just embarrassing to humans.
    Mundus vult decipi
    exactly amen. shooting a bear is just another since of survival people

    you should try hunting sometime, its a truly amazing and exhilarating experience. but you wouldnt understand know it would be truly amazing if everyone could understand the process of hunting and gathering your own food and bringing home the trophy. its called a mistake! im sure you have made plenty of those in life bud. so get over it...once again i would have been proud to have that bear as my trophy, plus now we know these bear migrate to mate with polar bears so im sure it wont be long from now till we see another, plus there is more than likely more than one only took 6 six years for that one to appear in BC.

    Gerhard Adam
    Modern day hunting is rarely about "getting your own food" since you never have to live with the consequences.  In other words, if you don't get something you don't go hungry.

    Therefore, it's mostly about playing hunter and pretending that somehow you're having a wilderness experience.  There's nothing rewarding or exhilarating about using modern technology while experiencing all the comforts of modern society that remotely resembles true hunting. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    i agree...i love bow hunting! if i could afford one i would strictly bow hunt for the pure excitement and challenge. that is the true way to hunt or bush hunting with a knife...sorry but you know that is way to much to ask from most modern dependent hunters...but in my opinion its ballsy and proves manhood more compared to guns. that's true about not going do what is more convenient in this society but me personally, im eating the kill until supplies runs out then out to hunt next season. its definitely a good substitute for processed meats and much better for you. but all in all no matter how you hunt...just don't let the food go to waste.

    Another coward who want even print a fake name. People like this are who molest children and become serial killers!

    Well said. I agree with everything.

    He should be ashamed, killing such a rare and beautiful animal. How could anyone have the heart to do something as disgusting as this! For trophies too! Martell and others like him are just not decent humans. This is just gutting.

    hah! try facing the bears without the guns, see who gets hunted then. Killing for trophies!? That poor bear, if it was beautiful, why kill it? Wouldnt it be more beautiful in its habitat than in his games room. Disgusting man. Hunting for trophies is a shameful and disgraceful act.


    i agree completely