A daily field report on polar bears from our guide Steve Selden in our Churchill, Manitoba office! Check out our polar bear tours here.
Stillness and temps around 26°F under overcast skies provided Sunday’s backdrop for our travelers. Churchill proper was quiet on this lazy Sunday though the tundra inside the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) once again was flush with action of the polar bear variety.
While our helicopter journeys have been spotting upwards of 20 or so bears roaming Wapusk National Park and the CWMA, our rovers with guides and their travelers averaged around 10 bears on Sunday. Guide Sandra’s group saw 11 polar bears, mostly lounging…of course seven of the eleven were males and it was Sunday (and much to their chagrin, ‘da Bears from Chicago lost…to the Bengals no less. Ouch!). Throughout the afternoon the group also saw a cross fox, arctic fox playing in the willows, gyrfalcon and snowy owl perched on a spruce searching for lemmings.
Guide Brad and his clan observed 10 plus sub-adults, mostly out at Gordon’s Point in and out of the kelp beds. When up and about, the photographs were highlighted by a nice backdrop of shore ice starting to build a little in the rocky shallows. Out past the ice, above the bay, the group viewed common eider ducks flying over open water. Back inland, a gyrfalcon nabbed a bird and had lunch as the camera shutters clicked. Perfect light.
Guide Elise and group meanwhile were seeing foxes both silver and red on a town and area excursion. The silver sat up on the rocks at Cape Merry encrusted with jewel lichen. An arctic hare was spotted as the group later walked around the Polar Bear Compound. The Quanset hut compound adjacent to the airport is a containment facility housing up to 26 unruly bears that wander in close to Churchill during the season. Bears are put into cells and provided only water and very little human contact. No visiting hours. As the weeks pass, bears are air-lifted periodically via helicopter up the coast to hopefully keep them clear of town. Guides will be “tipped off” by Helicopter Coordinator Brendan O’Neill in the Churchill office as to the time of the lift so their guests can be eyewitnesses to the event. Truly a unique experience of the North.
Late afternoon, thick fog enshrouded the Churchill region. Out on the Churchill River, the grain port’s last ship of the season fills its hold and prepares to set sail for Spain. The ship hails from Mumbai, India, and has been at sea for nine months. The trip to Spain will take another 12 days. Filled to the brim with wheat, this is the last of 18 vessels transporting grain and peas this season which started slow though finished with a flurry and a respectable quota. The Grain Port at Churchill is an anchor of the community and hopes for continued growth of the industry abound. Buy cereal!