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Churchill & Arctic North

Located on the edge of the Arctic, Churchill is polar bear capital. There are no roads into Churchill, so your primary transportation is via air or rail

The ideal time of year to observe the polar bears is October and November when the bears move from their summer habitat on the tundra back to seal hunting territory on Hudson Bay. Autumn and winter are also a great to time to visit the region to go dog sledding and see the northern lights at their best. 

In late winter/spring you can see the female polar bears and their cubs emerge from their dens in Wapusk National Park. Swim and kayak with belugas during the summer months in the Hudson Bay and Churchill River. Summer is also a fabulous time to go bird watching, summer dog sledding, and still do some polar bear viewing out on the tundra or along coastal rocks.

A day in the life of a polar bear guide

by Andy MacPherson, Head Wilderness Guide, Churchill Wild

Last week we had a blustery day-long 6-wheel excursion down to the mouth of the Seal River, stopping and scouting for wildlife along the way. The first signs of activity arrived in the form of beautiful fresh polar bear tracks, which we found crossing our path in the thick mud. This gave us a great chance to have some fun and cast a few tracks as souvenirs to take home.

We crossed countless tracks along the 10 km trail including fresh caribou and wolf, a cow moose and calves, and one set of grizzly bear tracks! The animals were moving and we needed to find out where!

We spotted a rare juvenile snowy owl perched in the tidal rocks, which is not a common sight in July, as most snowy owls are up in the Arctic islands nesting at this time of year. We arrived at our lunch spot and broke out the tasty soup and sandwiches Arneau and Riley had packed for our lunch, and dined in the wild while constantly scanning for visitors.

We stopped near Jack Batstone’s cabin at the Seal River, resting for a bit on the rocks and watching for polar bears hunting belugas. There was evidence of polar bears everywhere, beluga bones, tracks, and a few new claw marks on Jack’s cabin! On our way back to the lodge (guide) Bella spotted a Mom and an older cub laying on a tidal island just out of our reach. We wanted to get off the machines and walk out for a closer view, but a large shallow tidal lake was between us and them.

We reluctantly left and watched the sic sics grazing beside our last creek crossing, but luck was on our side and the two bears we had spotted followed their noses and almost beat us back to the lodge for appetizers!

We enjoyed the company of the two bears as they posed just outside the breezeway of the lodge, Mom perched on a rock while her youngster napped below her. It was an amazing way to end the day, watching polar bears with a plate of appetizers and a glass of wine, and little did we know we were headed for a polar bear extravaganza!

We had bears visiting daily over the next week, from healthy single females to huge, old and scarred males in their prime to single mothers who were soon going to be empty nesters, as their cubs readied to leave Mom’s protection. We even had a couple of young ones already experiencing life on their own for the first time, tentatively exploring their newfound freedom.

The circle of life continues at Seal River.

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