Some inquisitive Churchill polar bears become frequent flyers on Hudson Bay Helicopters. There’s only one flight route, about 40 kilometers northwest, and chances are the bear will not remember a thing once they come back to consciousness on the tundra.
When bears show a pattern for testing the Churchill town limits and are recurring offenders, they are first incarcerated in the Polar Bear Compound just adjacent to the airport. Subsequent captures either by culvert trap or darting land them there again and they then are flown up along the northwestern coast and released. The hope is they will not return to Churchill during the season though some do. Most times they will be flown out again depending on the capacity of the “jail”, at the time.
This relatively new strategy of dealing with “problem” bears by Manitoba Conservation reflects the importance of eco-tourism in the region. In the old days polar bears would be put down if they were frequent visitors within town limits. These days extreme leniency is given unless the bears pose a critical threat to residents.
These photos show some of the process of airlifting polar bears from Churchill up north.
October and November are the prime months to witness a polar bear airlift in Churchill!