Light snow fell under gray skies continually over the course of the day and temperatures stayed just below the freezing mark providing ultimate conditions for wildlife viewing. A little slush ice from the earlier milder temperatures remained on some of the pond surfaces and the land -fast ice in the bay still only extended at most a quarter mile into the Hudson Bay.
Guide Melissa and her group had a wild start to the day out on the land, at Halfway Point with a huge male polar bear standing up against their rover coming just under the back deck railing. there have been some long and strong big male bears all over the tundra this season ….greater in numbers than in years past.
Also out at Halfway, there were a number of bears scattered around and evidence of the prior day’s seal kill with sightings of red stained snow. This also quite possibly was a different seal kill as the location was not exactly near the other reported spot. Not so crazy this year.
At the tundra lodge, sows with cubs were the main attraction spread throughout the area in snow and willows. One curious cub, testing his mom’s weary eye, maneuvered over to the group’s rover for an inspection. Mom stayed close and watched intently. Many interactions were occurring though not many of the bigger males that were previously staking their claim to the territory were present. maybe they wandered out to the seal kills and were exerting their dominance for fresh meat. A lone arctic fox way out across a large lake near the lodge was a lasting image as the group headed in for the day.
Guide Karen had her contingent of eager travelers out at the tundra lodge early and had between 20-30 polar bear sightings over the day. every possible interaction was witnessed as bears underneath and up on the side of the rover awed the group. At one point while parked near the lodge, they had 11 bears in a panoramic view. A little later territorial testing continued as a male chased away two bigger males then a young small female, about five years old, somehow found the nerve to push a big male out of bounds towards the willows.
As the action continued then calmed slightly, an arctic fox appeared then ran through the grounds off to the Northern point extending out to the bay.
As the rover was now positioned on the front side of the lodge, half the group was inside the warm confines of the machine and the other half on the back deck. That’s when the action of the day happened. As a sow with her two yearling cubs rested near the willows of the backside of the lodge just near the lounge car, another sow with her two coy’s approached. Without much provocation the yearling’s mom went after one of the coy’s. The incited coy’s mom then retaliated by jumping onto the yearling’s mom. As the growling emanated from the wrestling match, some nearby adult males were hoping to take advantage of the situation…possibly seeing leeway to attack a cub. No such luck…soon the two sows separated and got back to their motherly duties sensing the danger from the males lurking in the area.
The rest of the afternoon was enjoyed with excellent views of sparring males around the willows and ponds in the direction of the Hudson Bay. Groups of five or six males would take take turns whacking at each other and wrestling matches would take place with a pair rolling on the ground. As the rover pulled away to head back in, a pair of sub-adult males sparred in the distance atop the frozen surface of a glowing, windswept thermakarst. Training on the tundra never stops.