This early season in Nunavut’s capital city Iqaluit has signaled the beginning of a northern winter season. All across the Arctic and sub- Arctic, the temperatures are dropping and snow has either fallen or soon will be blowing in the air across tundra and Precambrian rock outcrops.
Churchill’s polar bear season, which begins in a week, will take on a different feel this year as the Hudson Bay Rail line is still inoperable and repairs are surely not going to be initiated before spring at this juncture. Hopes are high for an influx of travelers by air coming as usual to see the magnificent polar bears and other Arctic wildlife roaming the Churchill Wildlife Management Area and in the bluffs of Cape Merry. Their presence will give hope both financially and spiritually to Churchillians trying to withstand the isolation and strife the disaster to the rail – line has caused since last May.
Natural Habitat Adventures guide Brad Josephs and his band of travelers enjoyed an exciting start to the polar bear season with good bear sightings along with some other fantastic wildlife encounters. The group also witnessed an iconic landmark coming to the ground out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area.
Polar bear with a dirty snout. Brad Josephs photo.
Veteran guide Brad reported warmer than average temperatures for this time of year though that didn’t deter polar bears from revealing themselves on the tundra. A pair of snowy owls perched on Precambrian rocks searching for lemmings or Arctic hares made for prime viewing and photo ops. A small group of willow ptarmigan made their way from the willows, imagine that, into sight of the excited group. A good look at an iconic northern species.
Arctic hare stoic ly waiting for the protection of snow. Brad Josephs photo.
Brad described the falling of an iconic landmark out in the CWMA.; “A strange thing happened while we were on the tundra. We drove by an old military observation towerbuilt in the early 1950’s for cold weather training, and when we drove by it again a few hours later it had collapsed in the high winds.” The landmark was dubbed “first tower” since there were two of these structures built for military training observation in the 1950’s and this one is the first one that polar rovers encounter while searching the tundra for wildlife. It’s quite a ways out on the trail and served as a landmark for rover drivers, especially in snowy conditions. Sad to see it go!
The demise of first tower in the CWMA. Brad Josephs photo.
While exploring the tundra out near the fallen tower, the group had an amazing encounter with a red fox carrying its ptarmigan prey in his mouth. Surprised by being “caught in the act” , the fox paused to take in the curious onlookers gazing at him in wonderment of the laws of nature and the survival chain of life in the Arctic wild. What an exciting start to the 2016 polar bear season in Churchill!
A red fox with a tasty meal of willow ptarmigan. Brad Josephs photo.