November 3 – Temperatures dropped dramatically, then reached 20°F by mid-day. The weather was overcast with light winds and periodic snow showers. The morning began with some groups encountering a sow and cubs right on the main road a short distance outside of town. Once on the tundra, there was good action at Gordon Point and along the Coast Trail. The highlight was one large male polar bear that made his presence known to a tundra vehicle. Travelers saw many polar bears—between 15 and 20 individuals were reported within the entirety of the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. By early afternoon, the bears were all laying down resting, with many retreating to the thick willows to avoid the wind. The day ended with a quiet tone, and only a few smaller animals were seen.
November 4 – A handful of calm moments were the exception to an otherwise cold and windy day on the tundra. As such, many polar bears found reprieve in the willows. Although most spent a good portion of the day lazing around, there were numerous bear sightings. To start the morning, travelers saw a bear walking across a newly frozen pond. A mother and cub sheltering in the willows were seen near the tundra vehicles, while a large male became rather curious about the vehicles. From a distance, two polar bears took a nap next to each other. On occasion, these two would stand and sniff one another but found themselves too lazy to spar. An Arctic hare hid among the trees, and a red fox was spotted scampering across the tundra. Grease ice, a thin layer of frazil crystals, was observed on Hudson Bay for the first time in a localized area near Gordon Point—the first sign of the bay beginning to freeze.
A content Arctic Hare near Cape Merry in Churchill. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
November 2 – Mild temperatures dominated the day, hovering just below freezing. The skies were mostly cloudy, and short snow showers occurred periodically. The biggest news from the tundra was several sets of sows with cubs, each of which was fairly active. One mother with young was “bullied” by an adult male for a short period, while another pair approached some of the vehicles. Some groups spent the entire day with cubs, while others chose to explore more of the tundra. For the polar bear watchers that were on the move, more adult and sub-adult bears were encountered, including two sparring males. One polar bear was spotted swimming in Hudson Bay. Travelers have also come upon red foxes and a cross fox, which has dark patterned spotting due to partial melanism. In the wider Churchill region, caribou, wolves and wolverine have been encountered over the past three days—this year has had an uncommon number of atypical sightings. Very few people have come across these animals, but they are being seen. The town itself has seen a spike in polar bear activity for several days (half a dozen being witnessed in the past 24 hours), keeping bear patrol officers busy.
A polar bear roams the coast of the Hudson Bay in Churchill. Katie de Meulles photo.
November 1 – It was a partly sunny day on the shores of Hudson Bay, with temperatures just below freezing. The ponds have now all frozen. For a handful of travelers out early, there was an incredibly unique sighting of two wolves moving across the tundra, one black, the other gray. The sighting was fleeting—no one managed to capture a picture. Guides with 15 years of experience in Churchill have never encountered wolves in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area during bear season, though they are occasionally seen from helicopter flights over the adjoining Wapusk National Park. As the day unfolded, many polar bears were seen throughout the entirety of the management area. They were mostly active, occupied with sorting themselves as larger males wandered from place to place. In the afternoon, polar bear watchers observed a sow and cub—they alternately rested in the willows and ambled about. A gyrfalcon was spotted along with many ptarmigan and a red fox. An uncommon sighting of a pine marten by one group rounded off a notable day on the tundra.
A magnificent timeless vista of the boreal forest with creek outlet in the foreground. Katie de Meulles photo.
A polar bear explores the tundra for a meal in Churchill. Katie de Meulles photo.
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.
A polar bear hunkered down in the rocks to wait out the ice-free days. Discover Churchill photo.
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.
Two polar bears spar near the Tundra Lodge in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Krys Walczak photo.
Polar bear sleeping in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Krys Walczak photo.
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.
Polar bear resting on the Precambrian Shield in Churchill. Drew Hamilton photo.
A content Arctic Hare near Cape Merry in Churchill. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
A regal polar bear roaming the Hudson Bay Coast in Churchill. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
Polar bear crossing the tundra in Churchill. Alex De Vries Magnifico photo.
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 bear gnawing on a tasty treat. Jason Luoma photo.
Sun reflecting off a majestic polar bear in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. Jason Luoma photo.
A polar bear in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area conducting morning Polar Rover inspection. Bill McPherson photo.
Polar bear walking along a Polar Rover trail in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area. @apalsson photo.
A lone polar bear approaching a Polar Rover in Churchill. Bill McPherson photo.
A polar bear inspects a Polar Rover in Churchill. Bill McPherson photo.