Polar bear mom and cubs on the tundra. Jason Luoma photo.
Polar bear taking a look into the polar rover. Kry Walczak photo.
Two sparring male polar bears near the tundra lodge in Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Jason Luoma photo.
With snow already covering the tundra in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, polar bears have become more active and are up and about sparring and moving along the coastal region near the Tundra Lodge. Numbers of bears being spotted by Natural Habitat Adventures groups are close to 15 or more.
Here are two Natural Habitat Adventure guide reports from the past week in Churchill:
“Wildlife is OFF THE CHARTS. A true banner week for this early in the season. We had three diverse weather days and incredible wildlife sightings, including: eight polar bears with close encounters, Arctic fox, red fox (silver morph),gyrfalcon, harbor seal, snow bunting, snowy owl, semi-palmated plovers, semi-palmated sandpipers, glaucous gulls, herring gulls, willow ptarmigan, common raven and common eider!!”
Natural Habitat Adventures guide Brad Josephs and his group of travelers were on their way to rover launch last week when they spotted a sight that most on – board the rover had never seen. No, not the iconic “king of the north” the magnificent polar bear, although many of those beautiful creatures were in their future, but a stoic immature snowy owl. An “amazing sighting” according to Brad!
Iconic snowy owl perched on a snow covered rock. Brad Josephs photo.
This was just a preview of what was to come. “We had the most bears I have ever seen at one time on halfway point. They were all over the place!” Brad stated following a sensational day in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA). A sow with two cubs of the year (coys) definitely stood out as the highlight of the expedition though numerous polar bears with varied behavior kept the group in awe for hours and hours. This is a good sign for the ongoing season as the polar bear numbers are growing daily.
.”It was so incredible that this female felt so comfortable snuggling her precious little babies just 30 feet from our Rover.” reported Brad regarding the intimate interactions witnessed by the group.
Sow and her two coys approaching a polar rover. Brad Josephs photo.
Sow polar bear and her two coys snuggling in a kelp bed. Brad Josephs photo.
Red poll in a willow tree. Brad Josephs photo.
Polar rovers enjoying polar bears on the tundra. Brad Josephs photo.
Brad’s Natural Habitat Adventures group listening to Churchill River Mushing’s head musher Kelly Turcotte. Brad Josephs photo.
Natural Habitat Adventures band of avid adventurers in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.
The group rounded out their memorable and exciting time in Churchill with dogsled rides with Churchill River Mushing and owner/musher Kelly Turcotte. Kelly gives a history of mushing in Churchill while the group enjoys bannock and a hot drink after the rides in his authentic trappers tent. As you can see the group bonded well on their amazing adventure in the north!
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.
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.
The colors of the tundra deep into fall in Churchill. Ed Bouvier photo.
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 growing on rocks in Churchill. Steve Selden 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 in the CWMA. Colby Brokvist photo.
A Gyrfalcon in the late fall in Churchill. Brad Josephs photo.