Winter is coming. Although it was a sunny day on the tundra, the sub-freezing temperatures were sustaining. After travelers enjoyed a red fox at sunrise, the day’s activities were dominated by bear viewing. Recently, polar bears have been spotted checking the pond ice. To the amusement of some tundra explorers, a bear had a little slip through the soft ice. Other polar bears had better luck on the ice, most notably a mother and cubs. The rest of the morning was filled with active bears across the tundra. Some remained further away, while plenty of others were very curious about the tundra vehicles. Coincidentally, a young female enjoyed a kelp salad as the vehicles were parked for lunch. As winter sets in, tracks from polar bears and other animals are becoming more obvious, and visitors can get a good sense of the less noticeable activity on the tundra.
Visitors to Churchill woke yesterday morning to heavy winds and hammering snow. Enormous waves crashed along the shore of Hudson Bay, and it was worth the trip out to see it. Snow drifted across the roads and trails, and the town had the plows and loaders out for most of the day. Helicopters were grounded for the second day in a row, though the incoming planes managed to sneak in and out within small weather windows of good visibility thanks to the prowess of specially trained Arctic pilots. Amazingly, out on the tundra just 15 miles away from town, it was an entirely different day weather-wise. Snow dissipated by late morning and visibility was excellent. The tundra vehicles had no issue navigating the snow that drifted up against the willows. Yesterday’s polar bears were mostly in the same places, with active polar bears cleaning themselves in the fresh snow and sparring out east. Travelers had two encounters with polar bears putting their paws up on the tundra vehicles. Later in the afternoon, several bears were seen moving westward along the coast. A red fox was spotted near Halfway Point, and two migrating red-breasted mergansers were occupying one of the ponds, no doubt waiting out the storm. All dog sled operations are now running their winter sleds, having stored the summer training carts until springtime comes.
A dusting of snow and frost settled on the tundra overnight. Numerous ponds froze, and now only the largest still contains open water. The day began bitterly cold and foggy, with strong winds coming off Hudson Bay. By early afternoon, however, the fog gave way to blue skies and sunshine. Polar bears are currently being seen all along the coast within the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, with a concentration of polar bears out east between First Tower and The Flats. Two males were spotted sparring in the afternoon, and some younger females were quite active, approaching several tundra vehicles. An array of birdlife was encountered, while foxes have remained elusive for several days.
Churchill weather has been a mix of freezing temperatures, mostly cloudy with intermittent sun, occasional snow flurries and gusting wind. Polar bears were spotted all around the tundra out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Travelers and guides have spotted some curious polar bears near the Tundra Lodge and among the tundra vehicles in the vicinity, particularly younger females. While some bears remained in the willows yesterday, travelers were able to enjoy some more active behavior. A polar bear was seen thermoregulating in the snow, and two large males neared sparring confrontation. Sightings of a snowy owl, rough-legged hawk, gyrfalcon and red fox out on the land spiced up the day’s experience!
Polar bears are congregating in the Churchill area with the polar bear season underway. Three bears are in the Polar Bear Holding Facility at this point and that number should increase as the week goes on. Stay posted to the site to stay current on polar bear numbers in the region.