Barren – ground grizzly under sedation at the Churchill Polar Bear Holding Facility. Manitoba Conservation photo.
Barren – ground grizzly in the Churchill Polar Bear Holding Facility. Manitoba Conservation photo.
Helicopter lifts the Barren – ground grizzly to its northern release location. Manitoba Conservation photo.
In Churchill, when a bear breaks into a cabin or outbuilding, Polar Bear Alert is called. On July 18, 2018 the call was made and Conservation officers investigated. No bear was located that day however roughly a week later a bear was captured in a culvert trap set by the officers in the area.
July 26th Manitoba Conservation officers approached a trap and realized quickly they had a bear inside. Once they examined the trap more closely they were quite surprised. Instead of the usual polar bear captive, they had trapped a Barren – ground grizzly bear! After spending part of the day in the polar bear holding facility, the animal was airlifted and released near the Manitoba – Nunavut border to the north.
The male grizzly weighed 388 lbs and was equipped with a GPS ear tag and lip tattooed to track its movements. The GPS will transmit over the next four months and researchers will be able to study its migration pattern. Barren – ground grizzlies are Protected under the Endangered Species and Ecosystems Act.
Here are the recent polar bear statistics from Manitoba Conservation in Churchill. Finally there is respite from the polar bear saturation around town. Polar bears are all moving to the Hudson Bay ice and it looks as if soon there will be little threat around the community. Great to know friends and folks in Churchill can breathe a sigh of relief.
Polar bear season in Churchill has been steady this year though the Manitoba Conservation report indicates there are numerous polar bears out at Cape Churchill. They should start to migrate along the coast west towards Churchill in the next week or so. The temperatures have been pretty mild so bears are isolated in certain areas at the moment. Stay tuned for more action from the CWMA!
Polar bear surveying the Hudson Bay. Brad Josephs photo.
Polar bear numbers for the past week were fairly consistent for this time of year. Looks like Manitoba Conservation is clearing the jail in preparation for the upcoming polar bear season in Churchill starting in a couple of weeks. Should be another exciting wildlife bonanza with incredible polar bear action in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area!
Mother polar bear and her two coy roam the frozen tundra. Thon Huijser photo.
Polar bear encounter stats from Manitoba Conservation for the week of September 19, 2016. Town of Churchill image.
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. 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.
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?”