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The climate crisis has led to a strange new animal hybrid. Meet the 'pizzly bear.'
Screenshot via Technorites/YouTube

Most of what we hear about climate change are the challenges and potential disasters it will lead to if not mitigated. What we hear less about are the odd ways in which it's already altering our world—sometimes in big, visible ways.

Since satellites began recording Arctic sea ice levels in 1979, scientists have expressed concern about the melting ice. Not only does the planet rely on Arctic ice for regulating weather patterns, but wildlife who call the Arctic their home rely on it for survival. Polar bears are considered vulnerable to the impact of climate change, and though their numbers are holding fairly steady overall, their movement patterns are changing as their icy habitat melts.

At the same time, the movement patterns of their southern cousins, grizzly bears, are also changing. Grizzlies can be found as far south as Wyoming and up north in Alaska. But as global temperatures rise, grizzlies have moved farther north, even going as far as the high Arctic.

With polar bears moving south to find land and grizzly bears moving north to find colder temps, the two are crossing paths. The birds and the bees habit applies to bears, and since polar bears and grizzly bears share similar DNA, they are able to breed.

And they have. Hence the hybrid species known as the "pizzly bear." Also known as "grolar bear". Also known as "polizzly." (If we have to deal with a climate emergency, we can at least take a moment to appreciate getting the word polizzly out of it.)


In all seriousness, though, the emergence of the pizzly bear hybrid is a sign of climate change's impact. The first pizzly bear was officially identified in the wild in 2006, though people who live in the Arctic had reported sightings of the strange-looking bear prior to that.

As the Associated Press reported at the time:

"Northern hunters, scientists and people with vivid imaginations have discussed the possibility for years.

But Roger Kuptana, an Inuvialuit guide from Sachs Harbour, North West Territories, was the first to suspect it had actually happened when he proposed that a strange-looking bear shot last month by an American sports hunter might be half polar bear, half grizzly.

Territorial officials seized the creature after noticing its white fur was scattered with brown patches and that it had the long claws and humped back of a grizzly. Now a DNA test has confirmed that it is indeed a hybrid — possibly the first documented in the wild."

Since then, eight more pizzly bears have been identified in the wild, and as of 2017 researchers had determined that all of them sprung from one female polar bear who had mated with two different grizzly bears. However, it's unknown how many of the hybrid bears may actually exist.

Prior to their discovery in the wild, researchers knew that polar bears and grizzly bears could mate because they had already done so at Osnabrück Zoo in Germany. That zoo had kept their polar bears and grizzly bears in the same enclosure, and in 2004, two pizzly bear cubs were born. (Unfortunately, one of them was shot and killed in 2017 after she escaped from her enclosure.)

Rare Hybrid Bear of Polar Bear and Grizzly Bearwww.youtube.com

Larissa DeSantis, a paleontologist and associate professor at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told The Independent that climate change "was definitely playing a role" bears cross-breeding. DeSantis studies the dietary habits of bears and how the climate crisis is impacting them.

"We need to study the effects of hybridization on these bears," De Santis said. "Most of the time hybrids are not more vigorous than either of the two species, as grizzlies and brown bears have unique adaptations for their particular environments. However, there are a few examples where hybrids can be more vigorous and better able to adapt to a particular environment, particularly if the environment is deviating from what it once was. This requires further study and careful monitoring. Time will tell if these hybrids are better able to withstand a warming Arctic. These hybrids might be better suited for a broader range of food sources, like the grizzly bear, and in contrast to polar bears which are hyper-specialized."

DeSantis says there is evidence that the pizzly bear hybrids are fertile, and there have been matings between a hybrid and a grizzly.

"This new type of bear is more resistant to climate change and better suited to warmer temperatures," said DeSantis. So we may see more of these hybridizations, which would be kind of cool from a biological standpoint and a bad sign from an ecological standpoint. Hard to celebrate a new species when it's a result of a crisis.

They sure are cute, though.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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