We’re now in the season in Churchill when polar bear moms and their cub(s) emerge from their dens in Wapusk National Park and venture over the tundra close to town on their way to the Hudson Bay ice pack. Once there, sows will teach their young polar bear cubs how to hunt seals and also gain some sustenance for themselves after a long winter under the earth and snow in their dens. This video was taken by Quinton Hart in Churchill just a day ago. Everyone should be on the lookout for these bear families along the coast!
Now Churchill Mayor Mike Spence wants to have serious conversations with the provincial government about finding alternatives to shipping the animals to Winnipeg and other destinations where they ultimately end up spending the rest of their lives in zoos.
Churchill Mayor Mike Spence and other Churchillians are concerned the old habit of just relocating orphaned cubs is outdated and archaic. The most recent capture of a pair of orphaned polar bear cubs from different mothers by provincial conservation officers has them talking and advocating for a different fate for the animals.
“It has always been an issue here,” says Spence.
“Polar bears are a critical part of the community. But once you have taken them out of the population, that’s it. They’re gone. I’ve told the minister we want to sit down and talk.
“We want to get more research on polar bears. We need to do things differently. We can’t just continue to do nothing other than shipping them off to zoos.”
According to Spence, ideas for changing the current protocol include tracking devices to monitor the bears’ travel and a facility designed to allow the bears to be reintroduced into the harsh northern environment.
“We need to do something more than just saying, ‘Another bear gone to the zoo,’” he said. “We don’t accept sending cubs to captivity is the answer.”
The latest capture, like nearly all the polar bears relocated in recent years, will end up at Assiniboine Park Zoo’s Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.
Statistics, as vague as they might be, tend to point to unfavorable survival rates when young abandoned cubs are left in the wild. Sustainable Development Minister Rochelle Squires states that scientists know there is little hope for those animals.
“The unfortunate reality is that young cubs have very little chance of survival without their mother,” Squires said.
“Without a female to protect them, cubs are highly vulnerable to natural predators and also to the significant risk of starvation. Polar bear cubs depend on their mothers until they are about 2 1/2 years of age, by which time they’ve grown and learned to hunt for their own food.”
“Polar bears truly are irreplaceable and we consider them a jewel for the community of Churchill. For that reason, we will continue to devote resources to managing polar bears in the area and producing new research that supports their sustainability. While the Department of Sustainable Development is keenly focused on ensuring their survival, our government is committed to working collaboratively with the community to determine the future of these orphaned polar bears cubs.”
Let’s hope these new ideas come to fruition in the near future. Polar bears should be in the wild not automatically sent to zoos without exploring other options.
With the treasures of Churchill Arctic summer revealing themselves each day, what better time to post this absolutely amazing footage of polar bear cubs playing with mom in the snow of northern Manitoba near Churchill. I apologize if this has been posted previously but the video is surely worth another look! Can’t wait for the magical Churchill summer even though we all love the awesome polar bear season in October and November in Churchill!
This amazing polar bear video filmed around Wapusk National Park in Manitoba near Churchill is just right to get everyone in the holiday mood. Watching these playful polar bear cubs interact with their mother and with each other really inspires the feeling of the coming season. With all the stress that accompanies the hustle and bustle of this time of year, watching this footage from Parcs Canada will surely put you in a relaxed mood. Enjoy!
Two orphaned polar bear cubs were discovered in the Kaskatamagan Wildlife Management Area near York Factory on the southeastern Hudson Bay coast. After an extensive search failed to locate the mother, Manitoba Conservation decided to relocate the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. The pair were 10 months old in early fall when they were moved to the zoo and they join two cubs relocated from the Churchill area in late October.
Polar bear cubs chance of survival is nearly impossible under the age of two. Bear cubs stay with their mothers for two full winters in order to learn skills such as hunting out on the pack ice.
Recent discoveries of wolves preying on polar bears in the Kaskatamagan area provoke thought on the mother’s disappearance. Although there’s no evidence of adult polar bears being taken by wolves, there have been documented occurrences of cubs being lured away and killed by wolves. This is pretty incredible news since polar bears have been perennial kings of the food chain. Further news on this issue will be worth watching.
Common procedure in relocating polar bear cubs to the International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at the zoo in Winnipeg calls for a medical exam and a 30 – day quarantine period in which the bears are isolated from public or media interaction.
Once in Winnipeg, the cubs will go through a 30-day quarantine during which they will be kept isolated from the public and media.
In late October two 11 – month old male polar bear cubs came to the zoo after a civilian in Churchill accidentally shot the cubs mother with a cracker shell. Cracker shells are used to scare bears away from the area though this one struck the mother causing heavy blood loss and eventually death. Manitoba Conservation decided it was the best scenario form the bears to spend their lives in the zoo to insure their survival.
“Polar bears at this age (11 months) need to stay with their mothers for at least the first two winters to learn how to hunt and to avoid attacks by other, larger polar bears,” the province said in a news release.”Polar bear experts have advised that cubs of this age do not have any chance of survival if left on their own.”