Churchill November Wildlife Paradise

polar bear tundra lodge churchill

Polar bear under the Tundra Lodge. Moira Le Patourel photo.

This is the time when the polar bear season is a double-edged sword in that the polar bear numbers are building and so is the ice that could allow them to disperse overnight. However, this time is also one to rejoice in with the uncanny wildlife around the tundra.

Nt Hab’s Brad Joseph’s group had some incredible wildlife sightings during their trip.  A first-year male great gray owl at Gordon point was a memorable sighting.  Out around the Tundra Lodge, there were eight polar bears paired off and sparring in optimal 0-degree weather. This is the first report this season of numerous bears around the lodge actively engaged in mock fights. Pretty exciting and a reunion of sorts for the travelers on rovers and at the lodge!

After enjoying a sunset across the Churchill River at the flats just northwest of town, the group also was blessed with aurora borealis on their second night in Churchill. Nearly as spectacular to this particular group of travelers was the fantastic newly painted murals around town by the Sea Walls project. The murals brighten up the town, which can start to become grey this time of year, as much in the daytime as northern lights do at night.

Two other pretty awesome sights for this group were seeing a good size caribou herd of around a 100 animals south of Churchill. Tracks covered the ground all over the area. Some of those tracks were discovered to be from a Wolverine making a cameo appearance. Some longtime locals reported having not seen one for 20 years or more.

sparring polar bears

Polar bear males sparring on the tundra. Moira Le Patourel photo.

Moira Le Patourel’s group enjoyed good weather for the duration of their trip with a snowy backdrop and a mix of a few overcast days and a few with incredible sun and one extreme cold weather day (-21 degrees Celsius) Numerous polar bear sightings surely made up for the cold, including a mother with two cubs of the year, a mother with one cub of the year, as well as many adult males.

Churchill Polar Bear Season Field Notes – Guest Blog


These field notes are from Natural Habitat Adventures guide Eddy Savage from Churchill where he is enjoying guiding travelers around town and primarily out on the tundra of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. The Tundra Lodge is an amazing place to observe polar bears and other Arctic wildlife while becoming immersed in the tranquil feeling of the open tundra of the north! This first-hand description of the Lodge’s welcoming warmth is spot on. The wildlife details as well are quite incredible with activity all over the land!

“This was my first visit of 2017 to the Tundra Lodge. It was great to connect with the fantastic chefs Shayne and Shelley. These two make a seriously incredible team. They have an air of calm and professionalism and quickly make our guests feel at home with their delicious food choices. Sinking your teeth into one of Shelley’s fresh baked cookies, or sipping on Shayne’s miraculous yam soup, you will forget you are miles from a town and sitting in the middle of a rugged and beautiful landscape. They make you feel at home in their dining room. It’s a great feeling.

polar bear in Churchill

A polar bear basks in the cold with visions of ice on the Hudson Bay. Bonnie Chartier photo.

 
Krys, the Tundra Lodge Manager is on top of every problem and really assures our groups that they are his most important priority. Every detail is looked after and he keeps a sharp eye for wildlife around the lodge as well. On more than one occasion this season he has been the first to alert our group of approaching polar bears. A serious asset!
 
Jason is our talented rover driver. Moving our groups on and off the tundra every morning and afternoon. He has over 16 years experience driving rovers and has memorized the shape and shades of the land. His eye is sharp and often spots hard to see animals like snowy owls, ptarmigan, or Arctic hare far before any of us can see it. You can tell he loves being out in the rover with the groups as he is often ecstatic when we have a good wildlife encounter!
The team at the lodge is remarkable and they really give more than expected on a daily basis. As an expedition leader, working alongside Shayne, Shelley, Krys, and Jason is as good as it gets.
 
We have had a wide variety of sightings this year. As posted by Colby Brokvist, we had an incredible encounter with what we suspect to be two young Arctic Fox. Chasing each other too and fro across piles of kelp tossed ashore by humongous Hudson Bay seas, our entire Tundra Lodge group was privy to what was certainly a world class moment. Bonnie Chartier, a founder of eco-tourism in Churchill and Natural Habitat Adventures Expedition Leader said that was something she had never seen before. That really says something about the experience.
 
There seems to be a real abundance of lemmings around this year and sightings of snowy owls, red fox, and Arctic fox are high. Many groups have seen fox hunting for lemmings. Zig-zagging across the tundra listening and watching for movement. When they hone in on a lemming they leap fully into the air and land square on top of them. They are catching more then they can eat and caching them for later access.
 
When we look at our polar bear sightings, well it is hard to offer an all-encompassing description. Sightings have been great. We seemed to have “dinner bears” regularly. We had two nights where as soon as all of the group was served their entrees, a polar bear would come by and visit the lodge. They would peer into the lodge, seemingly curious about all of the shuffling and lights. It is important to note that these bears are not coming to the lodge to eat food, but instead, intrigued by the interesting sounds, lights, and smells, have come by out of curiosity. We do not feed the bears and will not tolerate that behavior. Our guests were ecstatic. There are few better ways to be interrupted during a meal than to have a polar bear sitting 10 feet below you. Cool.
Churchill polar bear tundra lodge

Polar bear by the tundra lodge. Eddy Savage photo.

 
On our second night at the lodge, the aurora borealis came out for us. It was partly cloudy but it still managed to be strong enough to see. Just another cool thing our guests got to see!
 
Our days on the rover were exciting too. We had ample polar bear sightings with many coming right past the rovers. On top of that, the other arctic wildlife in the area was out in force. During our day rovers on the tundra, our groups saw a silver fox, cross fox, and arctic fox hunting for lemmings. We had a few up close visits from the cross fox where one even cached a lemming about 40 feet from the rover. So amazing. All of our guests saw multiple snowy owls and had a great sighting where one sat close to the polar rover trail and allowed our group take some incredible images.
cross fox with lemming in Churchill

A cross fox seems content after catching a lemming. Konan Wendt photo.

 
After our few days out exploring the tundra and enjoying the comforts of the unique Tundra Lodge, we had to fly back to Winnipeg. On our last morning, we set off at 7 am and maybe 50 feet away in the headlights was a snowy owl perched on top of a tree. An awesome farewell to an incredible trip.
 
When in Churchill, we went dog sledding with the founder of the Hudson Bay Quest, Dave Daley. Everyone had a blast!”

Churchill Sunday Photo – Polar Bear Rover

Polar bear in Churchill

Polar bear checking out a polar rover in Churchill. Dorota Walkoski photo.

Polar bear season is underway and the photos and stories from the field in Churchill will start coming in day to day. Polar bears are already gathering around Natural Habitat Adventures’ Tundra Lodge out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area and the action will only get more exciting as the season goes on. Stay tuned for our regular northern updates from Churchill!

Natural Habitat Tundra Lodge Ready for Action

Tundra lodge in Churchill

Great White Bear has positioned the Nat Hab Tundra Lodge in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area for the upcoming polar bear season. Don Walkoski photo.

Natural Habitat Adventures Tundra Lodge is positioned perfectly in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) for the October/November polar bear season in Churchill. This prime location of the Great White Bear managed lodge is located in an area where polar bears migrate to and from a peninsula that juts into the Hudson Bay. Polar bears amble into the lodge area and often set up resting beds in the willows that surround the lodge. We can’t wait to see the wildlife action out there this season. Enjoy!

Beluga Whales Still in Churchill

The exciting news from Churchill is polar bears have been spotted out at the Tundra Lodge in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) and they are becoming more active as the season begins here. The first Natural Habitat Adventures group at the lodge guided by Colby and Eric came quite close to a big male bear out by first tower as their group explored away from the base lodge on a rover. A few others lounged around the lodge moving about the willows.

Pol;ar bear Churchill, Manitoba

Majestic polar bear resting in Churchill. Katie DeMeulles photo.

More exciting news from polar bear season Churchill is there are still at least 30 – 40 beluga whales still lingering around the mouth of the Churchill River and along the coast in the Hudson Bay. Some travelers took a helicopter journey and spotted the beluga pods below..what a sight for this late in the fall! I imagine there will be some more time for beluga’s here though soon they will depart for the Hudson Straits up north.

Moose in Churchill

Moose on the tundra in Churchill. Madison Stevens/PBI photo.

Other sightings by our friends at Polar Bears International (PBI) included numerous black foxes- a color morph of the red fox –  as well as traditional colored red foxes. A couple of Arctic fox have been spotted as well. Ptarmigan, Arctic hares and numerous bird species have also filled out the wildlife sightings for travelers over the past week. PBI travelers also were surprised by a large moose galloping along the tundra between ponds out in the CWMA!

Northern lights made an appearance on a couple of nights and were some of the best since last aurora season in February. Greens and pinks shimmered across the tundra in the darkened sky of the CWMA.

northern lights in Churchill, Manitoba

Intense northern lights in Churchill. Drew Hamilton photo.

Perhaps the most incredible sighting was also by the PBI group. They witnessed a Peregrine falcon feeding on a gull on the fringe of the willows. They observed the web of nature and the life-cycles of these hearty creatures firsthand!

peregrine-falcon-and-gull-madison-stevens-pbi

Peregrine falcon feasting on prey of a gull. Madison Stevens/PBI photo.

We are only in the first full week of polar bear season and already are witnessing surprises from every area out on the tundra!

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