Take a look at the above link to see some amazing footage from Natural Habitat guide Melissa Scott out on the tundra. With the fresh snow and temperatures in the mid 20’s F, wildlife up north is energized.
Guide Karen Walker’s group of MIT alumni began their Churchill trip with a walk out unusually far on Cape Merry, reaching the old battery via the cannons that utilized to protect Fort Prince of Wales across the Churchill River. A few artifacts rest on the rocky battery for visitors to see. Later on at a Parcs Canada presentation in the visitor Center a ranger brought out some newly excavated artifacts..a nice link to the past.
Battery at Cape Merry. Karen Walker photo.
The following day a quiet drive into the lodge for Karen and group all the way to Gordon Point eased everyone into the feel for the tundra. After a nice coffee break, a drive along the Coast Road, provided an arctic fox sighting…a first for the group. One traveler actually saw the fox catch a lemming. Quite an amazing sight.
Arctic fox inquisitive of travelers. Colby Brokvist photo.
Ptarmigan on the tundra. Karen Walker photo,
A sleeping male polar bear was then spotted about a 100 feet away, posed perfectly, looking right at the group aboard their rover The sun cast beautiful light on the very clean, white bear, highlighting his coarse hair with a warm glow. Eating lunch while all the while observing a bear in the Arctic is a rare opportunity for sure. After lunch it decided to roll over on its back and roll around playfully to the groups delight of the group. A nap followed to conserve energy.
Precambrian sheild of Cape Merry. Karen Walker photo.
Traveling a little further on the coast road revealed another bear walking along a pond slightly ahead of the rover. It continued walking toward the rover while another bear did the same further off in the distance. The first bear came within 10 feet of the vehicle and the bear that was more distant followed along the path of the first bear and also came close to the back observation deck before heading off. They were both healthy adult bears.
Later on, heading back to launch, the group came upon the two bears along the trail. One provided a road block of sorts slowly ambling along in front of the rover. Eventually, all three bears were at a distance in a row. Another bear was spotted, so four bears were in range in the area. Quite an enjoyable day in the CWMA.The day’s changeable weather provided an exciting backdrop for the action. From overcast to sideway blowing snow, to sunshine, to overcast, back to sun. A little wind as well provided even more color to the day.
Just a few days ago the ice packed in along Cape Churchill and many bears moved north onto the surface to get a jump on the seal hunting season…good news for the bear population. However, with a week and a half left in the season for travelers to view the majestic king of the north, panic was setting in for the fear that no bears would be in sight. On the contrary, bears have come in what seems to be “a second wave’ of late season congregations. Just when you think you’ve seen all the possibilities the sub-arctic has to offer in terms of surprises a new one comes along. it is a strange, amazing place.
Over a dozen bears, far and near were being reported out in the Churchill Wildlife management Area (CWMA). The above video is of sparring bears in the CWMA out at Gordon point. The sparring this season has been phenomenal …definitely the highlight of the action out on the tundra.
With some doubt in the air as far as numbers of bears still on land, Natural Habitat polar bear guide Sandra Elvin and travelers had a fairly slow first afternoon out on the tundra. A few bears roaming the ice were the highlights of that initial venture to the CWMA …hopes for a better following day prevailed however.
Polar bears in the distance. Karen Walker photo.
The second day was a blessing. On their way out to Gordon Point, the rover came upon a beautiful sow doing “bear yoga” who then wandered off towards the direction of the lodge. The group continued on to Gordon Point where after sitting stationary for awhile, had lunch, and was then was startled by a large,male bear walking along near the ice edge. After watching for some time, another attempt to serve lunch was interrupted by very small cub all alone, seemingly too young to be on his own. Even so, he was a bold. He visited all three rovers that were in the area at Gordon Point, barely rising above the top of the rover tires when he stood up. He was a “cutie”, but one has to wonder if he will make it through the harsh Arctic winter. As the group left Gordon Point and headed down the coastal flats, they saw many bears far out on the horizon.
An incredibly beautiful helicopter ride the following day brought the travelers across the river, to the south of the Cape, across the Cape, across Button Bay to Diamond Lake, and then back home. Down the river, about 7 moose were seen, many of them calves, and only a couple of bulls. South of the cape and across the cape, there were several bears with two sets of sows with a single cub ..one of them a coy! Near Diamond Lake, two bull moose, as well as two females with calves revealed themselves in and around the willows. “On our way back home, we saw one lonely bear on his own private little ice island that was raised up above all the ice around him with no open water. He seemed to be in deep thought about where to go next and was wondering what the heck we were! “, reported Sandra.
A couple of sled dogs await their next trip. Sandra Elvin photo.
After lunch, another awesome dog sledding adventure with Kelly and Churchill River Mushing left all with an iconic, lasting memory from the north.