Polar bears sparring on the pack ice. Paul Nicklen/National Geographic photo.
This photo by Paul Nicklen for National Geographic gives us a rare look into life out on the pack ice for polar bears. Sparring polar bears is a common behavior in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area although it’s rare to see these majestic animals going at it out on the ice of the Hudson Bay. The western Hudson Bay polar bear population is enjoying the seal – hunting season finally and we will see them in the spring. Enjoy!
Some awesome images by local photographer Alex De Vries – Magnifico in Churchill. The season has come to an end and ice covers the Hudson Bay as far as the eye can see. Polar bears have begun their winter seal hunting and will return to Churchill in the late spring.Enjoy these parting shots from polar bear season 2016!
Polar bear gazing out at the Hudson Bay. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Preparing for a polar bear lift. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Lifting off with polar bear in tow. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Heading north with polar bear in the cargo net. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Natural Habitat Adventures group looking on at the polar bear lift. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Natural Habitat Adventures group photo under the northern lights. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
The “end’ of polar bear season. Alex De Vries – Magnifico photo.
Churchill is under a cold siege! The next 14 hours or more are supposed to be very cold in the region. How cold? An extreme wind chill factor resulting in minus thirty and below centigrade is expected. Extreme cold warnings go into affect when the temperatures fall between minus 30 C and minus 50 C for two hours or more.
Spruce trees in the blowing snow of a blizzard. Brad Josephs photo.
Churchill is expected to push the minus 50 C level resulting from minus 30 C and below real temperatures coupled with 15-20 km/hour winds overnight into Sunday.
Extra caution is being advised to those people needing to go outside or those who work in the cold.
With the intense cold, the sea ice in the Hudson Bay builds to very thick which will bode well for an extended polar bear seal -hunting season.
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.