Churchill Polar Bear Season – Guest Blog Finale

In our last posting from Jeff and Kathy Klofft, we have some of Jeff’s remarkable photos of a polar bear family trying to escape safely from a energized male polar bear hoping to get to mom to mate or possibly at the cubs for some sustenance. These interactions are fairly rare but pretty exciting when witnessed by travelers. You can see more of the Klofft’s adventures on their blog site Go See It Travel!

“We watched the sleepy family for a little while and then noticed a large male making his way towards their direction.”

Polar bears churchill

Male polar bear starts to move towards mother and cubs. Jeff Klofft photo.

Our guides explained that a male polar bear can try to separate the mother from her cubs in order to mate with her.  The cubs will surely not survive on their own without their mother, and their survival depends on her staying away from the big male.  Unfortunately, she and the cubs were sleeping soundly as the male approached closer and closer, and all of us held our breath in dread of what we might see if he surprised them before they could hustle away.

polar bears churchill

Mother and cubs become aware and begin to move. Jeff Klofft photo.

Finally, as we all silently willed the mother bear to wake up and move on, she was up on her feet and she and her cubs were on the move even faster than Jeff’s rapid camera could catch it!

“So once she started to move, she and her cubs MOVED!  Some in our group actually were able to hear her hiss at the big male. They ran towards our Polar Rover at top speed until she was right behind our viewing platform.”

polar bears in Churchill

Polar bears on the run to safety. Jeff Klofft photo

“Directly behind us, the female stopped to see where the big male was, and found him to be plodding along in her direction, so although she slowed her speed, she and her cubs continued moving off away from the larger bear.”

polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Mother polar bear on the lookout for aggressive male. Jeff Klofft photo.

The big male moved more slowly but quite deliberately in her direction, stopping along the way to sniff where she and the cubs had been.

polar bear churchill

Sniffing the family’s scent the male polar bear slowly tracks them. Jeff Klofft photo.


polar bears in churchill

Once the big male had given up the chase, the polar bear family moved off toward the shore in a group. Jeff Klofft photo.


polar bear churchill

Male polar bear finally gives up the chase and heads for a rest in the willows. Jeff Klofft photo.


Happy Polar Bear Family

Sometimes hump day can be tough. Relax and take it easy like this polar bear family in Wapusk National Park just east of Churchill, Manitoba. This photo was taken by Daisy Gilardini in the polar bear denning area of Wapusk. Polar bears congregate in Churchill throughout late summer into the fall while waiting for the Hudson Bay to freeze. The denning area of Wapusk National Park is home to mothers and cubs during the deep freeze of winter. Only a few brave souls venture into this region. Churchill is the polar bear capital of the world and the best place to see these unique and majestic animals.

Polar bears in Wapusk National Park

Polar bear sow and cubs in Wapusk National Park. Daisy Gilardini photo.

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 – Polar Bear Mothers and Cubs

On  Mother’s Day these three photographs of mothers and cubs in Churchill are pretty fitting! Enjoy these wonderful polar bear shots and have an amazing Mother’s Day!

Polar bear mom and cub on the rocks in Churchill, Manitoba.

Polar bear sow and cub on the Precambrian shield. Natural Habitat Adventures photo.

Polar bear sow and cub out near Halfway Point. Stephanie Fernandez photo.

Polar bear sow and cub out near Halfway Point. Stephanie Fernandez photo.

Churchill polar bears.

Mother and cub on the pond ice in Churchill. Natural Habitat Adventures photo.

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