Churchill inukshuk under aurora.

Northern lights shining down on the Churchill inukshuk. Alora Meisel photo

The highlight of the day actually came at night…with “high lights” shimmering through the black night sky. The first major aurora borealis display shone faintly in the East as Guide Amy and group returned from a perfect night rover excursion. By the time they arrived in Churchill and stationed themselves behind the town complex by the Hudson Bay, a full on green wave of lights was reflecting off the water. After a beautiful, calm, clear night on the tundra, this was the perfect finale.

Aurora in Churchill.

Aurora blazing above Churchill. Katherine Hamilton photo.

Earlier in the late afternoon, the group started an amazing evening excursion with a sow and coy just a half hour down the trail. With the early evening light providing depth for quality photo’s, the rover lingered for a good while before heading toward the tundra lodge vicinity.

With a little bit of a warm up the colors of the tundra were once again poking through existing snow cover. Blues and grays of strewn glacial rock accent the browns and reds of the land. Approaching the lodge, the panorama view gave the group sight of many bears. Two sets of males sparring got the most attention….we all seem to love a good brawl. Hockey night in Canada! A number of other single bears roamed the area and just as the group was preparing to leave, a big male came around behind the rover and lay down on his back to stretch with paws spread apart in every direction while occasionally scratching his belly. The sleepy, relaxed bear wasn’t going anywhere soon and finally it was the group who needed to depart back to launch after a fine evening in the CWMA. Not too often that a group decides to go before an animal does.

Churchill polar bear.

A Snoozing polar bear on a clear Churchill day. Paul Brown photo.

Guide Eric and group also took in the impressive aurora by the inukshuk behind the complex capping off another select day on the land. More males sparring took up most of the morning as the group watched intently near the point North of the tundra lodge. In the afternoon, following lunch, a male was licking boots through the steel grate of the back deck. Then a young, very curious female spent ample time investigating the rover thinking it might be a possible food source. ” A giant box of cracker jacks” is how Eric described this group….a description that leaves plenty of room for discussion.

Toward the end of the day, a big, artistic, male polar bear decided to use the side of the rover as his canvas. Muddy finger painting was the medium used this day as his paws rested against the side of the rover. Another good day and a great trip overall.

Later in the evening, as the aurora was fading, a sub-adult polar bear was chased from town on the North end of Button St. toward the bay. Another bear was chased with cracker shells by Manitoba conservation officers in the late afternoon yesterday just outside of town by Brian LaDoon’s dog kennel area. This season has seen a dramatic difference from last year as the number of bear encounters by conservation officers in Churchill has been minimal to this point. Despite a busy late Summer of bear “occurences”…and incarceration of bears as early as August, there have been only 16 bears held in the compound by the airport to date. It’s not unusual for the “jail” to be near capacity by this time of year. Many sources report the overall health of bears in the area as good. Perhaps bears are staying away from town these days as a result and therefore staying out of trouble. There’s still time for that to change.

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