WINNIPEG, Manitoba, Feb. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. and Canadian researchers say they've discovered grizzly bears in what has traditionally been Canadian polar bear habitat.
The researchers from the American Museum of Natural History, City University of New York and Manitoba Conservation say they've even found grizzly bears in the Canadian province of Manitoba, where they are officially listed as locally extinct.
"Grizzly bears are a new guy on the scene, competition and a potential predator for the polar bears that live in this area," said CUNY Professor Robert Rockwell.
The scientists said they found no evidence of grizzly bears in that area before 1996, but between 1996 and 2008 the team found nine confirmed sightings and during the summer of 2009 there were three additional observations.
"The opportunistic sightings seem to be increasing," said Linda Gormezano, a graduate student working with Rockwell. "This is worrying for the polar bears because grizzly bears would likely hibernate in polar bear maternity denning habitat. They would come out of hibernation at the same time and can kill polar cubs.
"A big question is how to deal with these new residents," she added. "In Canada, both the polar and grizzly bear are federally listed as species of special concern. In Manitoba, the polar bear is provincially listed as threatened …"
The study that included Daryll Hedman of Manitoba Conservation recently appeared in the journal Canadian Field Naturalist.