While all of the male, juvenile and non-denning female polar bears have long been hunting seals on the frozen Hudson bay, there are still polar bears around the Churchill area. Wapusk National Park is the primary polar bear denning area in North America. This expansive region adjacent to the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA) and land to the South of Churchill, has abundant dens both active and non-active.
Last week a mother and cub polar bear were spotted moving Northeast in the CWMA. They most certainly came from their den in Wapusk which mom occupied last Fall. After giving birth in December or January, the two animals emerged and made their way toward the bay. This is where the previous seal-hunting season becomes critical. Mom needs to enjoy a bountiful season in order to store fat reserves that will be utilized during the nursing period. A cub needs to gain weight at a rapid pace in order to get out of the den and out on the ice in Springtime with enough time left in the season to learn hunting techniques and then execute them. The seals that is. When a sow has two cubs and in rare instances, triplets…the need for fat is even more crucial. Understandably the odds of survival decrease with increased numbers of offspring. Mom has neither the sufficient fat reserves or the ability to teach hunting to more cubs at once. Insufficient fat reserves in cubs following the initial nursing stage also comes into play when the the weather is brutally cold for extended time. Until the cubs start nourishing their bodies with seal meat, they do not have ample insulation. During polar bear season the main concern for cub safety is predation by male polar bears. During October and November the large population of bears in general in the CWMA discourages other predators from infringing on their territory. Now however, wolves tend to rule the land and have little qualms about attempting to separate a cub or two from their mom. Just getting out to the ice can be a challenge..once there an even greater challenge waits. Survival.