Wet Polar Bears and Arctic Wildlife

Southerly winds and scattered rain amongst the lowland fog accentuated the landscape out on the tundra in the Churchill wildlife Management Area. Temperatures in the mid to higher 30’s C gave the air just enough crispness to enliven the sighted polar bears. A wide range of Arctic wildlife complimented the bears as well with numerous sightings reported.

This time of year, in the early Fall season, many creatures in the North start or already have morphed their furry coats to white even though the snow has not arrived. The biological clock controlling the morphing is more dependent on the time of year than the weather. Polar bears of course keep their white look all year…others like Arctic Fox, Arctic Hare, ptarmigan, snowy owls and some other birds do make the change to a coat that will blend with the forthcoming snow. For now however the animals are more easily spotted out on the tundra.

Churchill polar bear.

Guide Melissa Scott escorting her Natural Habitat group out over the wet, foggy tundra came across their first polar bear quite near the rover launch area munching on a caribou carcass by himself…quite the find for the bear and the travelers literally right out of the gate.  Another  two bruins were sighted out near the coast road and another slightly more inland rolling on his back playing with a spruce twig. a few other bears were spotted lazily napping in the willows trying to shield themselves from the weather.

Four Arctic foxes were spotted congregating around the rover and actually staying near the machine feeding on various tid-bits of foliage and ground fodder. This behavior was a little out of the ordinary for the normally slightly skiddish foxes…at least in the presence of a giant rover with 16 or so humans inside. As the group headed back toward the tundra lodge inside of the coast road an Arctic hare with a soggy white coat scampered through the brush along the trail near ptarmigan alley. As they finished up an afternoon of good viewing,  A big male bear greeted them as the rover pulled up to the tundra lodge. All in all a great day!

Guide Eric Rock had similar varied wildlife sightings as his group roamed around the CWMA in their tundra rover. Arctic fox and hare were spotted and photographed and an initial gyrfalcon soared overhead.  A half dozen bears were spotted and by and large (yes large) the animals were reported to be in good shape despite the late freeze-up of the Hudson Bay last season.The most healthy polar bear was the one still devouring the caribou carcass near “lunch-site”…er sorry launch-site.

This year, not just this season, there have been 180 bear alert calls. As of this date there are currently nine  bears in the polar bear compound.


Polar Bear Season 2011

Doesn’t quite seem like a year has passed since last bear season. Maybe all the bear activity this past Summer and Fall has kept them in the forefront of our thoughts..kind of like Spring or Summer training for the numbers expected for is October/November in Churchill.

The early season had the seniors group in Churchill, accompanied by Dene elder Caroline Bjorklund, out on a tundra rover trip in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (CWMA). The group had a beautiful day on the land and saw a healthy male bear out by the Great White Bear tundra lodge. The big male seemed healthy and in good shape. The sentinel bear hopefully will portend a season of exciting polar bear behavior and good, robust animals.

Polar bear near Churchill, MB

Polar bear on the tundra.

Churchill is currently under a wild sideways blowing rainstorm with temperatures hovering above the freezing mark. This also could be a sign of some frenetic weather for the upcoming season. Early October is usually fairly calm and uneventful on the weather front. We’ll see how this first storm turns out and if it turns into any of the white stuff. Sled dogs as well as mushers across the Churchill region are waiting with baited breath for a possible early sledding season.

The first official tour group of the season was out on the tundra just a few days ago and the numbers of bears already have escalated. Eight males and sub -adults were spotted over the course of the day and a happy group ventured back to town with exciting stories of the North. The season is just underway though the prospects for seeing good numbers of polar bears seems positive. News from the tundra lodge with be forthcoming..can’t wait to hear what’s going on out there!

The vote by Churchill residents to possibly eliminate the process of adding fluoride to their water is less than a week away. Many towns throughout multiple provinces in Canada have taken these steps…we’ll see how it goes soon. We will keep you posted.

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