What Is A Pizzly Bear?


The pizzly bear is an animal that was first found in the wild in 2006, but what exactly is a pizzly bear?  

Pizzly Bear
Pizzly Bear – Courtesy of Corradox

A pizzly bear is the hybrid offspring of a polar bear and a grizzly bear. There have been occurrences of the pizzly bear both in captivity and in the wild.  

In this article, we look into what a pizzly bear is, along with their history and characteristics.

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Name

The pizzly bear name comes as a combination of the parents of the pizzzly, the polar bear, and the grizzly bears. They are also known as the grolar bear, another combination of polar bear and grizzly. It has been suggested that if the father were a polar bear, and the mother a grizzly, then the offspring would be called the pizzly bear.

If the father was a grizzly and the mother a polar bear, biologists have suggested that they are called the grolar bear.

With so few grizzly-polar bear hybrids found, there has been no firm naming convention.

Wildlife officials from Canada also have another name for this hybrid bear. Officials have combined the Inuit names for both of the parent’s species. The Inuit name for the polar bear is nanuk, with the Inuit name for grizzly bear being aklak.  

Pizzly bear courtesy of Messybeast

The combination of both names has led to the pizzly bear being called the nanulak. Although there is no scientific name for this hybrid of bear yet, this seems to be the most appropriate name with their parentage.

When Was The First Pizzly Bear Discovered?

The history of the pizzly bear goes all the way back to 1936, due to an accident at a zoo. The zoo was the United States National Zoo in Washington DC. At the zoo, a male polar bear and a female grizzly bear got together and mated.

The male polar bear made its way into the female grizzly bear’s enclosure. They soon mated, with the result being that the female had three cubs. These three cubs grew to adulthood, later mating themselves.

This incident proved two things. The first was that polar bears and grizzly bears could mate. Secondly, it also proved that the offspring could mate, something that many hybrid animals could not do. Many hybrid animals are born sterile and are unable to create any offspring.

Although the polar bear and grizzly bear had mated in the United States National Zoo, it was thought unlikely that this would happen in the wild. The habitats of the two bears did not overlap in many places, and the two species were generally aggressive to each other.

During the nineteenth century, brown bears and polar bears had mated in both English and German zoos.

Want to know how to tell the difference between a male and a female bear? You can find out in this article I have written.

When Was The First Pizzly Bear Discovered In The Wild?

In 2006, the first confirmation of a grizzly-polar bear hybrid was found in the wild. DNA testing of a bear found near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories on Banks Island, found the bear was indeed a hybrid of two species. This is the first pizzly bear found in the wild. The hybrid was found to be the offspring of a male grizzly and a female polar bear.

Characteristics

The pizzly bear is the offspring of a polar bear and a grizzly bear, and they share characteristics of both bears, while at the same time being different to both parents.

The body size of the pizzly bear is larger than a grizzly bear but smaller than a polar bear. The shape of the head is different from both parents as well. Whereas a polar bear has a long, sleek profile, the grizzly bear has a much rounder, stout head.  

Pizzly bears have a head shape that is in between the lean polar bears and the broad grizzly bear head.  

The neck leading from the medium-sized head has more in common with that of a polar bear. The pizzly bear has a shoulder muscle hump, although this much smaller than that of a grizzly bear.

In the pizzly bears that have been observed, most have had feet that do have some hair on the soles. This is a characteristic of the polar bear, which has hair on their soles to keep their feet warm.

Pizzly bears have creamy-white fur with some brown patches on the legs, paws, and around the eyes. The fur on the pizzly bear is also a combination of the types found on both parents. Whereas a polar bear hair is hollow, the hair on a grizzly is generally solid, with some hollow regions, depending on where the hair is taken.

When studying the hair of a pizzly bear, it was noted that the hair from the back was generally hollow. The hair taken from the paws was found to be almost solid.  

The paws of the grolar bear are large, having more in common with the grizzly bears. The claws are long, unlike polar bears. These long claws make the pizzly bear not as stable when on the ice as a polar bear.

When seen at rest, the pizzly bears lay as a polar bear does. They rest on their stomach, spreading their rear legs.

How Many Pizzly Bears Are There?

There have been eight pizzly or grolar bears either killed by hunters or live-captured. These eight species identified include four first-generation pizzly bears with a 50:50 split between a grizzly and polar bears. One female polar bear was the mother of all four first generation (F1) pizzly bears.

The second set of hybrids identified included four backcross individuals with a mix of 75:25 in favor of grizzly bears.

It is believed that a single hybrid (F1) female is the mother of all four of these backcross individuals.

White brown bear
White brown bear

After the first pizzly identified in 2006, the next was a suspected polar bear killed in 2010. The father of this bear was a grizzly bear, and the mother was a polar bear.

All of the offspring relate back to a single female polar bear.

Due to the restricted areas where grizzly bears and polar bears overlap in the wild, the numbers are likely to be low in the wild.

This is backed up by Robert Rockwell, an ecologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Rockwell says that he doesn’t think that there is much pressure for grizzly bears and polar bears to interbreed, stating, “I think the numbers are such that a hybrid would be pretty rare.”

Polar bear (L) Brown bear (R)

Habitat

Grizzly bears and polar bears are known to encounter each other in northern parts of Canada and Alaska. Grizzly bears have been seen as far north as Banks Island and Victoria Island. Grizzly bears have also been seen in the province of Nunavut for the last 50 years.

Their habitats also overlap around the Beaufort Sea in the western Canadian Arctic. Grizzly bears have been seen in Spring to go out onto the ice to feed on seals that have been killed by polar bears.  

Whereas interactions between grizzly bears and polar bears can be aggressive outside of the breeding season, when mating season happens, then the meeting is not as tense.

Do bears hibernate? Find out here in this article I have written.

Where Do Pizzly Bears Live?

The first pizzly bear was found in the wild in 2006. This hybrid animal was found on Banks Island in the Northern Territories in Canada.

In 2010, a pizzly bear was found on Victoria Island, close to the Northern Territories.

It seems that the hybrid bears are mostly found around the Northern Territories in Canada.

Grizzly bears and polar bears do not overlap in many places in the wild. They can be found in the same habitat in Northern Manitoba and on the north edge of Alaska.

Mating

The mating season for the polar bear and the grizzly bear overlaps, increasing their chances of breeding. The breeding season of a polar bear is from May to July, whereas the mating season of a grizzly bear is between April and June.  

Females and males have a long mating ritual, which can last several days. Females only ovulate after spending several days with the male. They will then mate several times over a few days.

Both grizzly bears and polar bears share a similar pregnancy. They both have a mechanism that allows them to delay implantation. The egg is fertilized and then develops into a small embryo called a blastocyst.

The female bear carries the blastocysts until they are ready. They then implant the embryo into the womb. Grizzly bears are known to delay implantation until they have put on enough weight to make it through the winter.

Is The Pizzly Bear Sterile?

Pizzly bears are known to be able to have young of their own, and are not sterile as most hybrid animals are. Most hybrid animals do not have viable sex cells and cannot produce sperm or eggs. Because the parent’s chromosomes do not match up, most hybrid animals are sterile.

The pizzly bear is not sterile, as the chromosomes from the grizzly bear and the polar bear match up. Polar bears are believed to have evolved from brown bears that became oscillated on coastal enclaves, as recently as 800-150 thousand years ago. This evolution ensures that the pizzly bear is not sterile as some hybrid animals are.

The results of these can be seen in the presence of second and third generation pizzly bears. 

Are Pizzly Bears Dangerous?

As the offspring of two of the most fearsome bears in North America, the polar bear, and the grizzly bear, there can be no doubt that the pizzly bear is a dangerous animal. No one has been attacked by a pizzly bear as far as records show, however, this is probably due to the low numbers of the species.

Is There Any Danger To The Future Of Polar Bears?

At the moment, there are relatively few pizzly bears in the wild, with all of them originating from the same female polar bear.

Polar bears mate far out on the sea ice, an area where grizzly bears rarely travel. With a male polar bear outweighing a female grizzly bear by four times, hybridization is unlikely, but as we have seen, it can still happen.

Are Pizzly Bears Endangered?

With so few pizzly bears found in the wild, the question remains whether they are endangered. Hybrid animals are afforded the same protection in the wild as original species are, according to the Endangered Species Act.

Is Hybridization Good or Bad For A Species?

In the early 1990s, there were less than 25 Florida panthers in the wild. The USFWS imported eight female cougars from Texas, allowing them to mate with the panthers. Due to this, the population of Florida panthers in the wild has now risen to 160.

In the arctic regions, however, this type of interference can have consequences. In an already stretched environment such as the arctic, many animals have their own ecological role. With more hybrid animals in the area, the other animals that are there may suffer.

If you or someone you know loves bears then check out these great gifts on Amazon.

Further Reading: Molecular Biology and Evolution: Bears in a Forest of Gene Trees

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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