A collection of winter activities and scenes from Churchill (Manitoba) captured on 16mm film. It’s pretty fun to look back at some of these vintage moments in time in the polar bear capital of the world!
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.
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.
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 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.
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 lounging polar bear plays with some kelp on the Precambrian shield by the Hudson Bay in Churchill. Bears are patiently waiting for the fall polar bear season when the Hudson Bay will slowly freeze-up and seal hunting season will begin!