Polar Bears International

Douglas Clark's (@yukondoug) tweet showing three species of bears in Wapusk National Park.

© Douglas Clark via Twitter

6/25/2015 1:02:07 PM

A Grizzly Bear Walks into Polar Bear Territory

Wapusk National Park sits on the western shore of the Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba. It's known for its polar bear population. In fact, it's one of the largest known polar bear maternity denning areas in the world. "Wapusk" is Cree for "white bear."

Wapusk National Park is not known for grizzly and black bears. Until now.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan set up a camera in the park that captured all three species of bear with seven months of each other.

Last week, researcher Doug Clark tweeted out photos of the three bears.

Clark told CBC News, "Seeing all three species of bear in Canada and in North America, at one spot, 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe it. There are only a couple of places where you'd even have the potential for that in North America and Wapusk National Park is the only place where that amount of overlap has been documented."

Why are grizzly bears suddenly showing up in polar bear habitat? Changes in climate could be part of the answer, especially as they move increasingly northward. Churchill represents an interesting intersection of the three species: far south for polar bears, normal for black bears, and actually a bit south for barren ground grizzly which are known to occur northwest of the Western Hudson Bay region.

Wapusk National Park sits on the edge of a transition zone between tundra and boreal forest. It's also near the transition from polar bear territory to black bear territory. Seeing more grizzlies where they historically have not been seen could be due in part to changing habitat as a result of climate change.

Polar Bears International Senior Director of Conservation Geoff York said, "While black bears have been seen around Churchill for a very long time, grizzly bears appear to be newcomers to this region. The extent of their presence, the drivers behind their dispersion, and the potential impacts of their occurrence here remain as of yet unknown."

Read more: CBC News, Grizzly bears wander into Manitoba polar bear territory, new research shows

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