Winter officially, finally arrived in the North. Churchill continues to be blanketed by the first blizzard-like snowfall of the season. The storm showed signs of developing last night when the wind whipped up to 40mph and brought the cold air necessary for the freezing rain to make the transition to the good stuff. With the familiar dusting on the ground around noon, the hammer began to fall in the early afternoon as the snow-filled wind hit with a vengeance. The old Northern Nights hotel used to have the slogan “Bears, Beluga’s and Beers”…and though he Beluga’s have made their safe passage back North to the Hudson Straits, the Bears are surely elated with the fresh powder and almost everyone involved with wildlife viewing, namely polar bear watching, in Churchill is more than likely having a couple of the others to celebrate as well. Slainte!
One of those bears was spotted by conservation down behind the town complex by the snow-covered inukshuk. As they gave chase, the firs cracker shells in a long time were heard ringing out over the Hudson Bay. The little young sub-adult disappeared over and down into the rocks heading East toward the Churchill River.
Guide Melissa noted that early in the day, despite the rising wind and surging front, bear activity in the CWMA was “great”. the highlight surely was two big males wrestling and sparring… breaking, then at it again. Then near and around the tundra lodge, there were roughly 15 bruins all active and involved in a subtle game of “polar bear risk”; pushing each other from place to place with very little physical contact. All in the group were enthralled with the various aspects revealing themselves like a contrived psychological experiment…this is the real thing for sure.
Slightly after what seemed like a calm was coming over the bears, the sow and cub that had been resting South of the lodge in a little spruce oasis moved in to hang with the big boys and show her independence. After a while of passive resistance, the mom finally felt the pressure and was forced back to her safe haven with cub defiantly in tow.
Guide Elise had her rover moving toward the tundra lodge when they passed closely by a sleeping bear. The male stood up near willows, moved around a little then returned to his spot for stretching and rolling maneuvers…great photo’s with snow-dusted fur and a good clump on the nose and paws raised to the sky. Snow on these guys is like powdered sugar on a big bear brownie….uh..sort of.
After more bears, starting to hunker down now at the lodge, the rover headed back on the quickly vanishing trail following an arctic hare part of the way. They had some excitement on the shuttle driving back to town as the driver’s windshield wiper blade froze up. Slow and steady.
Guide Scott and group started their day slowly with a couple of sleeping bears around 10:30 in the morning out East near first tower. One remained past out near a thermokarst while the other ventured over and walked right out into the rover trail. With another hour of relatively minor activity, the group rumbled toward Ptarmigan Alley and arrived just in time for some epic sparring activity. Two young adult males- just around 300lbs. each- were going at it pretty hard about a quarter mile East of Gordon Point. the drama unfolded over an hour and a half period with 10-minute breaks in between the rough-housing. This definitely overshadowed the flock of 16 pure white Ptarmigan the group saw early that morning by a little bit. As the snow continued to dump heavily this sparring seemed to be the “perfect scenario to accompany the first storm of the season”. as Scott saw it. Stay tuned for more to come.