This Summer season has provided amazing looks at wildflowers, birds and thousands of beluga whales cruising the Hudson bay and Churchill river. Of course the focus is on these beautiful, majestic mammals and the environment of the Arctic. The calming feeling one gets from being out on the water with the whales is everlasting in the soul. Life becomes fluid and this feeling transcends the woes one has in everyday life. The Arctic life cycle is unlike any other.
Polar bears in Summer in Churchill can be hit or miss…..this year they have been quite the hit indeed. In all the years I have guided trips in Summer here I remember most the ones where polar bears have been more prevalent. When you don’t have expectations the most unexpected tends to happen. Most of the time you could be within a hundred yards of a bear in Summer and never even know it. Other times you arrive just at the right moment when a sow and cub happened to be crossing a remote road outside of town. Or, on a long hike through tundra, shotgun in hand…a bear appears from the fog. Those moments..however hair -raising they are brand incredible memories into one’s soul. Any bear encounter in the world creates the same feeling.
When a Summer is brimming with bears the thrills are just around the next rock-outcropping. Bears leave the deteriorating ice flows generally up north and gradually make their way along the coast to Churchill by Fall. Churchill serves as the staging area for bears to once again head onto the floes in late November. Ice forms first around Churchill due to the geography of the land jutting out somewhat into the Hudson Bay and the confluence of many freshwater rivers, including the Churchill, in the Southwestern corner of the bay. This freshwater freezes at a faster rate then saltwater in the bay so the platform starts to form against the land here. Bears gather along the coast and test the ice as it solidifies. The cycle repeats year after year.
For various reasons bears appear in larger numbers randomly. This Summer, bears have been all over the land and water which some proponents of global warming point out as a red flag. Ice melting earlier sends bears to the land. However, it’s also linked to the freeze-up date in November. If the ice is very late forming then an early melt is more dire. Most recent years have averaged out to be consistently the same number of ice days for bears out hunting seals on the ice Historically however, bears have seen their hunting grounds confined to a shorter time-frame over the last century. The time in the historical perspective is miniscule but the evidence of our ozone layer being damaged is there so we must be critical of the conditions. Take a look at the current ice formation in the Hudson Bay.
The bears are in Churchill this Summer and that surely bodes well for an early Fall season of good bear numbers…again, “good” is a relative term here. With travelers attracted by the prospect of seeing bears in the Summer in Churchill, they will hopefully be educated to the adverse affects of greenhouse gasses being emitted into our atmosphere. With that information, people might return home and make better decisions in how they live and pollute. Turning negative circumstances into positive reactions.