Grizzlies and polar bears are mating for an alarming reason

A grizzly bear roams through the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
Thomson Reuters

Grizzly-polar bear hybrids are becoming a reality.

The two bears typically don’t occupy the same habitats – polar bears, or Ursus maritimus, like to hang out near or in the sea, while grizzlies, a subspecies of brown bear, or Ursus arctos, prefer forests. But as warmer temperatures hit the Arctic Circle, there have been increasing sightings of crossovers.

Most recently, a bear was shot in northern Canada that didn’t quite fit the description of a polar bear.

Its head was the same shape as a grizzly bear and its paws were brown, hunter Didji Ishalook told CBC News.

The reason for the crossover? The bears would rather mate with a different kind of bear than not mate at all, The Washington Post reports. But that’s not necessarily great news for the future of the polar bear, which needs arctic ice to thrive.

“I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it’s quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically,” University of Alberta professor Andrew Derocher told The Post. The warmer temperatures have led to expanded territories for the grizzlies to roam and run into polar bear mates, which could lead to polar bears as we know them to dissolve into the grizzly population.