The bear he shot, it turned out, was no ordinary polar bear. It was a very rare hybrid between a polar and a grizzly bear. In fact, this is the only known case of a hybrid between these two bear species in the wild known to exist. What makes this truly extraordinary is the fact that the two bear breeds normally don’t habituate the same area. Polar bears are at home in the artic regions and grizzly bears prefer milder climates with dense forest and brush.
Martell and his guide hunter Roger Kuptana were not able to celebrate their success. As soon the rare bear was tagged and reported, as the law demands, the officials seized the bear and charged the hunter and his guide with poaching*. The reason this drastic step was taken is that it is illegal to hunt grizzly bears. Martell paid $ 50,000 for the guide and the hunting permit and now he could face not only the seizure of his prized trophy but also a fine of up to $ 1,000 and up to one year in jail for shooting a bear which he had no permit for.
As usual the press and organizations with a political agenda were quick in spreading the news of an American who poached a rare bear in Canada. The ugly and false news spread around the world and served for the animal rights and anti-hunting groups as an occasion to trumpet their typical ignorant and false assumptions.
Luckily for Jim Martell the officials decided to have the bear’s DNA tested to make it clear once and for all what species the bear actually was. The result of DNA tests showed that the bear was a rare polar-grizzly hybrid with more polar bear in the genes than grizzly. For Martell and his guide this was good news as the bear was legally hunted and shot and their names have been cleared- at least by the officials.
The latest news is that the trophy bear soon will be returned to his rightful and legal owner, Jim Martell, who saved up money for many years to go on this hunt of a lifetime.
While I fully understand that game wardens and wildlife officials are concerned about poaching I still have to ask myself was this DNA testing and the confiscation of the bear necessary? Looking at the picture I can see very clearly a polar bear, hybrid or not, this bear most certainly does not look like a grizzly.
* Note on hunting versus poaching: Since this Blog is also visited by non-hunters let me explain the difference between the words “hunter” and “poacher”. Oftentimes the press and more so the politically motivated non-hunting and animal rights groups use the term poacher and hunter interchangeably in the hopes of creating the impression that the two terms are one and the same. The simple fact is that a poacher is a criminal killing animals out of season and without a permit. A hunter, on the other hand, is a dedicated conservationist who fulfills an important role in wildlife management. The hunter has fulfilled several obligations before he/she can obtain a hunting license and go hunting. Hunters obey the hunting laws and a strict code of ethics and conduct. In short, calling a hunter a poacher is the same as calling a customer in a shop a shoplifter after that person paid for the groceries at the cash out.