November 17 – Last night the aurora came out for a short period, and many people came out to witness it. Added to the experience were brief sightings of Arctic fox, red fox, silver fox, and even a pine marten. Today, low clouds, heavy snow, and periods of fog made for a difficult day of wildlife watching. No bears were spotted and smaller animals generally remained elusive. Some helicopters were able to get up early before the storm in the morning and reported more than 20 bears seen out on the ice, including family groups.
Aurora appears in the Churchill sky! Discover Churchill photo.
November 16 – It was a great time for everyone out on the tundra today. There was one male polar bear out at the ponds near one of the Tundra Lodges that made the day. It came over to each and every tundra vehicle and smelled everyone’s feet through the metal mesh decks. Then it napped for an hour or so, got up and did it all over again. Ptarmigan and fox were also spotted. It was an exceptional day for those riding on helicopters as well. Countless bears were seen on the sea ice and several families were spotted. A silver fox has been observed for the past several mornings in town. Very light winds made the wildlife viewing very manageable, with temperatures above 0°F.
Sow and cub polar bear heading to the Hudson Bay ice. Discover Churchill photo.
November 15 – Churchill was greeted with partly sunny skies today, with mild temperatures and light winds. Travelers spent the entire day watching bears on the ice. There were nine in total, including two families with cubs. Mostly they were at a distance, but the action was good. Some groups witnessed a male bear kill and eat a seal. Another male polar bear was following the cubs around. The day ended with red fox and gyrfalcon coming very close to the tundra vehicles.
November 12 – Churchill awoke today to a view of an ice-free coastline thanks to prevailing south winds overnight. Morning helicopters confirmed that this was the case along the length of the Cape Churchill coastline. The day felt only mildly cold due to the relatively warm winds. Out on the tundra, travelers encountered polar bears throughout the day, and there were several instances of polar bears walking among the tundra vehicles. Other reports, from helicopters and locals, told of bears moving along the coastline throughout the Churchill area. These sightings included several family groups and adult males. Sightings of gyrfalcon, ptarmigan and red fox rounded out the day. The ice moving out today is good news for bear watchers. Though cold temperatures will ultimately freeze the bay again, a hard freeze-up has been delayed and polar bear watching continues to be productive.
A majestic polar bear roams the tundra in Churchill. Discover Churchill 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.
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.