Natural Habitat guide Elise’s group headed to the tundra on a morning that was a bit breezy but slowly calmed throughout the day..”As the tundra turns the bears actually shook off their hypnotic-like state and started dancing.” Elise stated.
The majority of the day was time out around the lodge. Two polar bears slumbered in the willows near the bay while two other bears cautiously investigated the underside of the lodge once the water delivery vehicle departed for the day. “The stars aligned and two bears started sparring on the other side of the lodge”. reported Elise. Three large polar bears then staked out an area by the south end of the lodge and gave quite a show for onlooking travelers in both Elise’s and fellow Natural Habitat guide Paul Brown’s Rover. Another bear dozed, seemingly unaware beneath the lodge’s propane tanks the entire time..probably the older bear who’s been idle and present for the majority of the last two weeks..
Out around Christmas Lake Esker, the group observed numerous trails of fox and ptarmigan area…followed by a flock of “cryptic ptarmigan” concealed in the willows by fresh snow.
Guide Karen Walker’s group had some tough luck with the wind kicking up to nearly 70 knots. Helicopter journey’s were cancelled and a bear lift out at the compound was also nixed. The group listenedto some northern stories from their driver and then toured the town complex….Churchill’s self contained recreation center and library, school and many other forms of activity all in one building. Watching the waves crash down on the bay from the panoramic windows was soothing and relaxing. Then it was off to the Anglican Church to see the lady Franklin stained glass window aside the altar. The travelers then braved the windy, snowy conditions and ventured down to the Inukshuk below the complex and out to the polar bear compound by the airport in whiteout weather.
Tundra around Churchill. Megan Koelemay Photo.
Later in the day Karen and group enjoyed dog sledding with Kelly at Churchill River Mushing and heard the details of the polar bear break in at his tent compound the previous week. The rides were chilly though the wind had subsided some and the shelter from the boreal forest Luckily both places were vacant at the time. This weeks incident in town didn’t have as fortunate of an outcome. The bears are restless and moving with the cold.
Dogsledding in Churchill with Kelly Turcotte. John and Becky McKay photo.
The following day out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area Karen and travelers were greeted by a large male bear walking right by their rover as they headed out east. Several polar bear sightings later they were at the coast and two adolescent males were sleeping along the kelp beds. One awoke, picked a fight with the other, and the two bears sparred for a good time just 50 feet from the rover. They then returned to their slumber and sparred again later just inside the willow stands a bit farther out. At lunch another male joined the trio and spareed intermittently just off the back observation deck. A “three bear lunch”, as described by karen. The “best and closest sparring I have ever seen”, added Karen.
Two separate excellent viewings of ptarmigan along the trail as well as a lone snow bunting in the willows rounded out the excursion. A fantastic tundra experience in the CWMA!