polar bear in Churchill

The polar bear stretch is widely viewed in the great north country! Dennis Minty photo.

Still no deep chill up here in Churchill. Temperatures ranged in the mid 20’s F and the clouds continued to cover like a warm blanket over the region. The incredible consistency of mildly cool weather has surely contributed to the prolific omnipresence of Polar Bears. Old Inuit saying: Little ice, many bears. No season in recent memory, mine and according to all the locals I speak with, compares to this one. Foxes of all sorts constantly appear in every direction one turns, both night and day. I even saw one in Gypsy’s having an espresso….the quite rare blond morph. Ahhh…life in Churchill.

Out on the land, guide Paul and travelers observed multiple sparring interactions on the coast road. Continuing out East the group caught up with three sets of moms with cubs off Halfway Point on the ice. Then, as their rover patrolled the coast road, another four moms with COY’s (cubs of the year) were wandering and occasionally settling in the kelp beds for some rest and nursing. While guides are normally saturated with bear and tundra experience by this time of the season, this season keeps exposing both guides and travelers to incredible new happenings. The latest for Paul’s entourage was a white-morph Gyrfalcon soaring high above the rocky coast at Gordon Point. Well received by the group, this largest of all the true falcons–roughly two-feet long with a four-foot wingspan–can live up to 20 years in the harsh Arctic wild….an amazing challenge for any creature.

Meanwhile Guide Karen and her folks spent the morning out near the Tundra Lodge where good numbers of bears were having a pretty calm time of it with not too much interaction going on. Soon a curious sub-adult headed towards their rover and stood up on the rear of the vehicle taking a closer look inside. After sniffing boots from underneath the back deck grate, he gave way to a mom with two coys walking right up to the rover as well. With these two animals in the foreground and another mom with two cubs at a distance directly behind them in the snow drifts, photographers were able to capture a full frame of bears indeed. Later in the afternoon, near the coast, the group witnessed a mom and her two year-old on the ice just barely forming along the shore. Mom was leading her cub by sort of surfing her body along the surface with her leg crashing through every few steps. With just enough ice to keep them atop the water, cub followed intently behind, learning precious skills all the while. The day came to a dramatic finish on the tundra when out at Halfway Point a mom with another set of two-year olds seemingly posed on the rocks for all aboard the rover. The majestic scene was soon interrupted however by a very large male approaching while huffing at the cubs. Mom quickly ushered them on their way and out of danger up the rocks then back inland through some willows. Not a bad “bring your cubs to the tundra day” for this fortunate Nat Hab group of Karen’s.

Guide Scott characterized the bear viewing as “madness on the tundra” reiterating the fact that this has been the most amazing season in his guiding tenure. It was obvious his uncharted enthusiasm was absorbed by his group as I ran into them before dinner…lots of smiles. Aside from the numerous mom and cub(s) sightings out around Gordon Point for his travelers, the highlight was a big male running “full tilt” for almost thirty yards. This surely is a rare sight at this time of the year as Polar Bears are nearly exhausted of energy by now. Another sign that this season’s bears are in good shape due to an extended seal hunting season on the Hudson Bay ice last year. Another great day in Churchill!

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