Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A guest blog with Susan Page Davis

Researching and writing Polar Opposites was very interesting. This is the third book in my Alaska Weddings series, and my trip to Alaska was long over, but I still had a lot to learn for this story.

The hero, Oz Thormond, is a scientist who does research on polar bears. He takes Cheryl Holland along on one of his research trips. Cheryl is a small-town grandmother who fixes her own car out of necessity and works as office manager for her son-in-law, who is a veterinarian. She’s sure she and Oz don’t have much in common—until she sees him work and comes to love wildlife research as much as he does.

The top mark on the blue pole is 10'
I did a lot of reading on polar bears, and learned some fascinating things about them. One was the physical differences between polar bears and other species of bears. Shape of the skull, for instance. A polar bear’s head is much longer than a black bear’s or a grizzly’s.

My son mentioned to me a rare phenomenon—the interbreeding of grizzlies and polar bears. He’d heard about it in 2006, when a man with an official license to shoot a polar bear shot what he thought was a polar bear and then realized it was very odd looking. Its fur was mostly cream-colored, but it had brown patches, and it had long claws and a humped back like a grizzly. The hunter could have been in huge trouble legally if the bear was found to be a grizzly—say, an albino grizzly. But it wasn’t.

DNA testing showed that the bear had a grizzly bear for its father and a polar bear mother, what scientists call a grolar bear. (If the father’s a polar bear and the mother’s a grizzly, it’s a pizzly.) Well, this intriguing bit of information had to go into my book. A few of these hybrids have been born in captivity, but it’s the ones found in the wild that interest me most. I gave Cheryl and Oz a chance for a close encounter with a grolar when they were out “catching polar bears” for their research.

If you’d like to see pictures of this rare creature, you can find them by searching online for “grolar bear.” I was delighted to see a live bear in the wild while I was in Alaska, but it was a black bear, not a polar bear. But the idea of going out into the wild and deliberately coming face to face with these huge carnivores enticed me in a scary sort of way. (I was in a small airplane when I saw my black bear). I don’t think I’d want to do what Oz and Cheryl do, but I’m glad someone has done it, so that we can know more about these marvelous creatures.

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Photo courtesy of Peter Vetsch, taken at the Denver Zoo

Question of the Day: Do you live in a part of the country where there are bears? What kind of bears?


  1. Wow, the information about the grolar bear is very interesting! I did look up the pics on Google! I don't hear of people seeing bears in my neck of the woods, though!

  2. No bears where I live but I've been to Alaska and we had a black bear run in front of the tour bus and of course, we saw grizzlies in Denali.

  3. The grolar bear thing is really interesting. And the pizzly is downright funny.

    I live in very rural Arkansas. Quite often there are reports of bears in my neck of the woods, but I've never seen one.

  4. In the past few years, we've had a couple of black bears in the area. Exciting. :)

    Polar bears are so enormous...I put my hand on a cast of a polar bear's hand was dwarfed.

  5. Do teddy bears count? :o) I have some of those close by.

  6. I have a picture exactly like that with my husband from our zoo here in Colorado. The story sounds so interesting!

    We have black bears in Colorado and I've seen several out in the wild--I was even chased by one when I was a teenager!

  7. I had seen a few black bears in the wild in Maine, and I did see the one in Alaska. I haven't seen a live polar bear yet. This research was intriguing!