Warming Arctic will affect south as well
(Ed Struzik/Times Colonist, 6 May 2012) -- University of Alberta scientist Andrew Derocher was in the High Arctic in late April getting a rare, first-hand glimpse of what the future of the Arctic might look like right around the time 3,000 researchers, policy-makers and indigenous leaders were gathered in Montreal at the International Polar Year 2012 conference to try to imagine the same thing. Derocher was on the sea ice catching and tagging polar bears off the coast of Victoria Island when Inuvialuit hunter Pat Epakohak hunted and killed a female polar bear that had two very unusual-looking cubs with her. "One of the cubs was very grizzly-bear-like and the other looked more like a polar bear," Derocher wrote in an email after getting a chance to look at the carcasses of the animals. "I guess we can expect more of these hybrids as the population of grizzly bears continues to grow in this part of the world." Up until about 20 years ago, sightings of grizzlies in the High Arctic were extremely rare, a quirk of nature, many biologists thought, that may have occurred because the bear walked the wrong way or strayed too far following mainland caribou that sometimes cross the sea ice to Arctic islands. No one imagined that hybrids such as the one Derocher saw would be part of the land or seascape. But that thinking began to change in recent years as more brown bears and a succession of other animals, such as red fox, coyotes, white-tailed deer, Pacific salmon and killer whales, began showing up in areas traditionally occupied by Arctic fox, Arctic wolves, caribou, Arctic char and beluga whales. Some of these animals, we now know, are also producing hybrids.
Posted 7 May 2012; 4:28:33 PM. Permalink
Tagged: Canada, Circumpolar News, Climate change and weather, May12, Research