Halloween in Churchill is one of the most unique events in North America. Kids go out en mass, depending on the weather of course, and navigate the streets guarded on either end by locals and fire department volunteers. Pick-up trucks with spotlights attached scour the area to ensure no polar bears appear and steal any of the kid’s candy. Nobody is allowed to dress in ghost white for fear of being mistaken for a polar bear. Although this night was clear, the wind can whip up blowing snow and visibility can get pretty low. No chances need to be taken …..we don’t need any anesthetized five-year-olds. ..although surely parents have considered such an option after mega candy ingestion.

Churchill polar bears sparring.

    Male polar bears sparring near the Hudson Bay coast in Churchill. Paul Brown photo.

With the previous night’s fog lifting, the day became optimal for taking it all in out on the land. Guide Paul had his group out at the point just Northeast of the tundra lodge where they witnessed excellent sparring. The calm Hudson Bay was the backdrop for the two big males honing their defense skills on the narrow spit of land.  After this epic scene, a more subdued male slept for a long time right next to the rover as the group enjoyed a hearty lunch and recounted a couple of amazing days in the CWMA. At times the bear would stretch and display seemingly contrived poses…really hamming it up for the onlookers. Lots of photos were there for the taking. Later toward the end of the day, the group sighted some rock ptarmigan along Christmas Lake esker while checking out the terminal edge of the boreal forest. Two male bears walking within view rounded out a full day of fantastic viewing.

Churchill polar bears sparring.

Polar bears sparring in the willows. Paul Brown photo.

Guide Sue and clan viewed numerous bears with various interactions throughout the day. As the fog cleared out early giving way to an amazing sunrise, a collared sow with two cubs were spotted near some willows out east around the flats. Then a mom with coy nursing from time to time in the same vicinity fascinated travelers for a good part of the morning.

The highlight of the day was yet another seal kill on the edge of the Hudson Bay just at the end of Ptarmigan Alley on the coast road. Several polar bears enjoyed the fresh kill and then awhile after four bears were play-fighting utilizing their rejuvenated energy. With the inordinate number of seal -kill reports this Fall, one might wonder whether polar bears are becoming more adept at hunting seals in the open water. This could be an adaptation and compensation for the shrinking sea ice season…one can only hope. Darwin’s principle at work?

Churchill polar bear with seal kill.

A polar bear scavenging a seal carcass. Paul Brown photo.

Topping off a fantastic day the group sighted an adult, white and a juvenile, tan glacous gull over the Hudson Bay. This is the largest gull in the world and a great check off the list for avid birders. Some stubborn snow buntings and two semi-palmated plovers, rare for this time of year,rounded out the bird action for the day.


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