Polar Bear Encounters on Rise in Churchill

An assessment of Manitoba government statistical documents point to increased polar bear encounters with people in Churchill, the self proclaimed polar bear capital on the shores of Hudson Bay. As a result of increased interaction between polar bears and humans the numbers of incarcerated bears has nearly doubled since 2013. That year 36 animals were captured and taken to the polar bear holding facility, or jail, compared with 65 this past year.

polar bear lift in Churchill

Polar bear lift in Churchill. Justin Gibson photo.

Over the past three years  the numbers of documented cases of polar bear encounters in Churchill has risen from 229 in 2013 to 351 last year. All aspects of the current numbers point to increased activity between bears and humans in Churchill.

Daryll Hedman is the regional wildlife manager for Manitoba Conservation. His view on last year’s record for the number of polar bears caught in the populated “control zone” of Churchill indicates that even the authorities that deal with these animals on a regular basis are somewhat alarmed by the data. “Three hundred and fifty-one — for occurrences, that’s a high number,” he said.

Hedman and other experts are pointing to climate change as the culprit and resulting decreased sea ice as largely to blame. Over two-thirds of the planet’s polar bears live in Canada though experts are claiming that within only a few decades we could have a massive decline in numbers. With later freeze up in Arctic waters and thawing coming earlier in the spring, polar bears are competing for fatty seal meat within a tighter window. This impacts cubs trying to survive their first year the most. According to Andrew Derocher, a leading polar bear authority from University of Alberta, fewer cubs are making it through their first year out of the den. They simply are not getting the extended seal – hunting training on sea ice that they once were.

brad josephs polar bear seal kill

Polar bears spending more time on land are more likely to migrate to inhabited areas like Churchill in search of food. These encounters are happening more often and earlier in summer. Not that long ago polar bears rarely appeared in Churchill before August. Now early July seems to be the norm.

“What’s the tipping point?” Headman said. “What’s the threshold that they can go without food? When they’re on land, they’re not eating.”How long can they sustain themselves without getting onto that sea ice platform to hunt seals again?”


Churchill Sunday Photos – Aurora

The northern lights keep blazing in the Churchill – Hudson Bay region. These two shots by Natural Habitat Adventures guide Drew Hamilton at the Aurora Domes outside of Churchill are an indication that this season’s array of amazing northern lights is not letting up anytime soon. Let’s keep it going right up to the Hudson Bay Quest on March 17th. Enjoy!

northern lights in Churchill

Northern lights above the Aurora Domes. Drew Hamilton photo.

northern lights in Churchill, Manitoba

Northern lights in Churchill. Drew Hamilton photo.

Churchill Winter Photos

After a solid week of stellar northern lights, Natural Habitat Adventure guides Justin and Alex were playing the waiting game for the reappearance of aurora in the Churchill sky. While the images including northern lights have been just phenomenal, these shots are just as impressive without the feature. Churchill in the winter is such a beautiful place and there are always opportunities for exquisite photographs like these!

wapusk dog yard Churchill

Beaytifully composed shot at the Wapusk Adventures dog yard. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.

Igloo in Churchill, Manitoba

Igloo with the boral forest in the distance. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.

Igloo and northern lights in Churchill, Manitoba

Igloo with faint northern lights. Justin Gibson photo.

Churchill Video of the Week

This short documentary about Churchill gives some perspective of the town through the eyes of local residents and the Churchill Mayor Mike Spence. It’s a rare candid view on what life is like in the polar bear capital of the world. This footage is from 2009 though in my experience things stay pretty consistent in the town. Not a lot changes over the years. It is quite a fascinating town. Enjoy the Churchillian perspective!

Igloo Building 101 – Churchill Style

Learning how to build igloos on a Natural Habitat Adventures northern lights trip is a side benefit of viewing some incredible aurora borealis over the course of he week. At least that’s what transpired with guide Justin Gibson’s group in Churchill. With phenomenal consistent northern lights in the chilly Arctic sky, the daytime activities have been even more intriguing and educational for the travelers in the group. The cold seems just part of the experience of living in the sub – Arctic when thrills continue to come in the night sky.

This clip of Justin’s group constructing their first igloo is pretty cool. We’ve added another authentic Inuit tutorial for you to compare and judge how well the group did. Both videos are very fun to watch.

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