As November comes toward the end, the last couple of Natural Habitat groups headed back to Winnipeg after their adventures in Churchill. With this years mid-November scare of an early Hudson Bay freeze-up, the challenge of finding polar bears in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area became quite formidable. Luckily, a prevailing South wind pushed the existing ice pack out and polar bears came on land. That occurrence coupled with a second wave of bears extended the season right to the end.
Guide Colby Brokvist and travelers were treated to incredible aurora on their first evening in Churchill. Photographing behind the town complex with awesome shots of the huge stone inukshuk in the foreground proved to be a great way to start the trip.
The following day on the tundra turned out to be, “one of the best days of the season”, according to Colby. An old, snaggle-toothed male polar bear at Gordon Point approached the rover…coming close enough for some great shots by the avid photographers. This was the first polar bear for the group so the excitement was palpable for sure.
After having another bear in close to the rover, Colby spotted a sow with two coy (cubs of the year) at a fairly far distance. Chancing a trip out to them paid off as they came to a relaxed disposition. Mom began to nurse her young and the shutters began to fly. once the snow began to fly and a wind whipped it around it was time to move on. An incredible opportunity at this point of the season was followed by another bear near the tundra lodge that also took a liking to the rover and meandered quite close. What a day on the land with hardly anyone else around.
The next day was somewhat slower though what lacked in wildlife opportunities was compensated for with incredible light on the Arctic landscape and marvelous sun dogs in the sky…lasting all morning until about two in the afternoon. A curious polar bear at the tundra lodge made for some great photos for the time he obliged. “Still, the light was amazing and we took many opportunities to photograph trees, rocks, ponds and blowing snow. “, reported Colby. A howling wind the entire day piled drifts up to four-feet tall. Rovers struggled to make way on the trails…however all found a way to make it through and back to launch.
The final day on the tundra proved to be slow with regards to wildlife and specifically polar bear activity. The end of the season was about to be a reality. A lone bear near the ice edge reminded all of the true reason for the bears congregating in Churchill..to wait for the ice to form on Hudson Bay.
While eating lunch, the group was thrilled by what Colby termed a “fly-by” from a sow and coy. The pair trotted by the rover and were gone from sight in moments. Still, a fantastic day on northern tundra.
Highlights of the last couple of days in Churchill including trying out the infamous sport of curling at the curling rink in the town complex…enjoyed by all. The final day of the trip was a spectacle that most people on the planet do not have the chance to witness. Manitoba Conservation officers made the decision to release the remaining 15 polar bears from “jail” or the holding facility as the politically correct call it. The bears are released from culvert traps and all you see is their “south” end heading onto the ice…a fitting way to signal the end of bear season …and the beginning of seal season for the bears.
Erick Rock and his photo tour had some decent bear action in their time on the tundra lodge though the northern lights provided amazing thrills as well as photo opportunities. They also witnessed bears heading ice-ward.released from containment and saying goodbye to bear season 2012