Churchill Colors of Early Polar Bear Season

In late fall, pre – winter, colors of the tundra and the species that roam the land come to a crossroads of earth tones. This pallet gradually transitions into a great white north we all think of when envisioning the forthcoming and exciting polar bear season. This time is short though one of the most beautiful in the Arctic and surrounding regions.

red fox Churchill

Multi colored red fox with the colors of the textured tundra behind. Katie deMeulles photo.

Each year during polar bear season in Churchill either red or Arctic foxes tend to be the more prevalent species for that particular season. In recent years there has been an influx of red foxes that have seemingly displaced the gorgeous, white coated Arctic fox population to some extent. Hunting, legal and illegal, has also played a role in lowering the Arctic fox numbers. Warming temperatures facilitate the red fox species to become more adaptive to the northern weather and even ice conditions in winter. The patchwork colors of the red fox in particular meld with the myriad of tundra color splashes.

Precambrian shield in Churchill.

The colors of the tundra deep into fall in Churchill. Ed Bouvier photo.


Polar bear in Churchill,MB.

Early season photo of a sleepy polar bear. Paul Brown photo.

While snow is imminent in the Churchill region, polar bears will take this time to conserve energy by limiting movement as much as possible. Sleeping bears will soon be wandering restlessly as the snow falls and temperatures drop to freezing or lower by month’s end. Polar bears gazing toward the Hudson Bay in anticipation of a freeze over will become the norm as November marches on.

Lichen on the rocks in Churchill.

Lichen growing on rocks in Churchill. Steve Selden photo.


Silver fox scouring tundra for lemmings. Colby Brokvist photo

Silver fox scouring tundra for lemmings. Colby Brokvist photo.

The tundra will release the last fruits of its bounty to the scouring animals looking to nurture their bodies with berries, plants or lemmings before the winter hits hard. Changing appearances in foxes, hares and birds foretell the new season that will become a energetic forum of multiple species before the freeze leads to mass exodus lead especially by the king of the Arctic, the mighty polar bear.

Snowy owl on the tundra.

Snowy owl on the tundra in the CWMA. Colby Brokvist photo.


Gyr Falcon. Churchill

A Gyrfalcon in the late fall in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.

Churchill Field Notes – Photos of the Week

With so much happening in Churchill we are posting more amazing photos that Natural Habitat Adventures guides have submitted from some pretty spectacular trips! Aggressive polar bear sparring seems to be the theme thus far as the 2015 polar bear season settles in. Aurora borealis has also been more visible in the northern sky in vivid reds and greens. A  recent Tundra Lodge group viewed shimmering ribbons across the ink black sky deep in the CWMA. Last week my son and I experienced the northern lights with a few Natural Habitat groups by the inukshuk behind the town complex. My son’s eyes lit up with wonder as he viewed them over the placid and glimmering Hudson Bay. Priceless memories for sure.

northern lights in Churchill

Natural Habitat travelers on the tundra lodge under amazing northern lights. Drew Hamilton photo.

The tundra lodge has enjoyed abundant bear population from the start of the season. Sparring in and out of the willows surrounding the lodge has kept travelers in awe throughout the day. This will be hard to sustain though some new exciting phenomena out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) will surely arise. Every year a new and interesting behavior emerges from the polar bear population in Churchill. A cycle of other species seems to revolve from year to year as well. This season numerous snowy owls have been sighted all over the area. Last season red foxes were all over the tundra and the previous year the Arctic fox population was prolific.Every year is a new adventure!

polar bears in churchill mock fighting

Polar bears engaging in mock fighting on the tundra in Churchill. Drew Hamilton photo.

snowy owl in Churchill

Snowy owls have been prolific this polar bear season. Colby Brokvist photo.

polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba

Polar bears engaged in some pre sparring jawing. Drew Hamilton photo.

Churchill Photos of the Week- Foxes On the Tundra

Arctic and Red foxes compete for territory in Churchill and many seasons we see both on the tundra around town and out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Often, alternating seasons of proliferation provides an abundance of one species or the other. More often than not, Arctic foxes are sighted with more regularity then red foxes in and around the Churchill region. Trapping and diseases such as rabies have limited the numbers in the past. Populations seem to rebound and both species can be seen and photographed throughout the year. Enjoy these images from Churchill!

Arctic fox on the tundra in Churchill, Manitoba.

Arctic fox on the Churchill tundra. Courtesy Natural Habitat Adventures.

Arctic fox sniffing the tundra for prey in Churchill, Manitoba.

Arctic fox sniffing the tundra for prey. Brad Josephs photo.

Red fox on tundra in Churchill, MB

Red fox on the tundra. Natural Habitat Adventures photo.

Red fox in Churchill, MB.

Gorgeous red fox on the tundra. Colby Brokvist photo.

Arctic fox in Churchill, MB.

Arctic fox in gray morph phase. Paul Brown photo.

Red fox in Churchill, MB.

Red fox on the tundra. Brad Josephs photo.

Churchill update

 A magnificent silver fox by the navy building on the way to the launch “wowed” the group led by Natural Habitat guide Elise Lockton. “such a beautiful color phase of the red fox”, explained Elise. While the arctic foxes are dominating the scene this year the cross and silver fox are adding splashes of color to the tundra’s ever increasing whiteness.

“Heading out to Gordon Point this morning…we came across Sparring bears just past first- tower followed by curious young bears near Ptramigan Alley…standing up on vehicles, under the grate…all around.” reported Elise just this past week. The bear quota for the CWMA is certainly filling up now.

Arctic fox combing the tundra. Brad Josephs photo.

Arctic fox combing the tundra. Brad Josephs photo.

Other sightings included a red breasted merganser in an open creek past the tundra lodge…a little late to be hanging around the north country. As it flew away the group noticed the duck had only one leg. Maybe a sign of it’s delayed migration to the south. Another thrill was spotted by a traveler as the group rumbled over the tundra trail in their rover. A mink running across a frozen pond surprised everyone, even the local Churchillian driving the machine. A rare sighting for sure!

Sow and cub polar bear walk along a frozen tundra pond. Brad Josephs photo.

Sow and cub polar bear walk along a frozen tundra pond. Brad Josephs photo.

All in all the season has been extremely full of amazing sightings…both polar bears and all the other amazing species that reside in the region in the winter.

Natural Habitat guide Sean Beckett returned to Winnipeg from a great week in Churchill with his group of hearty travelers! The action started just moments after landing in Churchill, when they came across conservation officers airlifting a 400-lb bear from the polar bear compound. What an amazing start..even though the group as there to see polar bears not watch them being flown away.

Polar bear airlift from compound. Sean Beckett photo.

Polar bear airlift from compound. Sean Beckett photo.

Closer to town, various red foxes were strolling along the road as they made their way to the hotel. All this before even getting their keys to their rooms! “We kept the great momentum up with a great bout of sparring by two younger males near the lodge during our first rover day, and a handful of bears walking the coast between town and the launch site.”, reported Sean. Not bad for his first year in Churchill. “Our second rover day was complete with a wonderful encounter with a sow and her cub relaxing on a coastal pond.”, he added.

Big polar bear along the Hudson Bay coast. Sean Beckett photo.

Big polar bear along the Hudson Bay coast. Sean Beckett photo.

After a long day on the tundra, the northern lights provided a spectacular show, so the group rallied to photograph the aurora at the edge of town by the inukshuk. An arctic fox scampered by  tripods to add the cherry on top of a busy day.

Northern lights over the Hudson Bay behind the Inukshuk in Churchill. Sean Beckett photo.

Northern lights over the Hudson Bay behind the Inukshuk in Churchill. Sean Beckett photo.

On the last morning traveling to the airport, just when Sean and his entourage had thought they had seen their last bear of the trip, they discovered a huge male sleeping in the junk yard next to the naval base. Polar Bear Alert was quick on the scene to “cracker-shell” him over to the coast and away from town. Hopefully he’ll stayed out of trouble…and out of jail. “The bear forecast looks favorable next week, and I’m looking forward to getting back up north with another group tomorrow!” extolled Sean.

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