Conservation officer Graham reports that the Polar Bear Compound. Fondly known as D20, is at capacity of 26 Polar Bears even after multiple bear lifts this past week. This really comes as no surprise given the constant sightings and incidences day and night around Churchill. Sleep is hard to come by for Conservation officers trying to secure the town from the furry interlopers. Bears are very restless as the sea ice has blown out into the Hudson Bay and the temperature has remained just below freezing at about 25F. This bodes well for all our avid bear watchers being treated to a banner season that just seems to keep getting better by the day. No complaints here.
Speaking of bear lifts, travelers in Guide Jared’s group received an unexpected bonus as they were whisked out to the compound just in time to witness a bear evacuation bound for the Seal River area. While waiting at D20, the plot thickened! A mother with her two cubs appeared just over the rise to the airport side and headed directly for the jail, as it were. It seems odd that potential prisoners would be chased away after quite plainly showing up to turn themselves in; but that’s what happened…crackers anyone? The lift was “carried out” over an awestruck audience and you can bet the cell wasn’t vacant long at all. Jared’s folks were allowed the rare peek inside the compound from the the open entrance. Earlier that morning the group had watched as a bear was chased from behind Northern Nights hotel. The huge, though somewhat skinny bruin, retreated up the hill and eventually was forced out toward the bay in the direction of Cape Merry then across the river. Not long after this event, the phenomenal morning was culminated by sightings of a Red Fox, large male bear and a sow with two cubs all just off the coast road back east of town. An unbeatable few hours in Churchill.
Guide Karen and her group also came upon a “chase-out” when they were touring toward Cape Merry just past the Anglican Church and the cracker shells rang out. The big bear was in the willows just over the hill and was not cooperating. Finally a Hudson Bay Helicopter was summoned to hover lowly over the area thus stirring up the snow cover. This did the trick as the bear retreated across the road toward Jockville and down to the beach. Continuing on, the group’s bus reached Cape Merry in time for a view of the aforementioned bear-lift trolling directly overhead, across the river and past Fort Prince of Wales. If only La Peruse could see this. The group then heard another set of crackers and watched a bear swimming back toward town just off the coast past the rocky shore. Intense.
From the air; Guide Paul reported his guests seeing some Caribou in Wapusk National Park. These, have been the first reported sightings this season of the ungulates from the helicopters. Many bears moving all over the park including a mom and cubs when the group landed at Nester 2 for some, albeit brief, tundra time. The flight over the expansive park is always a surprise for all.
Guide Brent also reported constant movement of over 40 bears his group saw throughout the day in the CWMA. They headed out early to the coast and caught bears in kelp beds, on the edge of the ice, and tag- team sparring where two bears would go at it then rest while another two wrestled upright with heavy limbs and paws. The day had began by seeing an Arctic Hare… “right out of the chute” as Brent aptly phrased it. This surely was a good omen for the rest of the day. It all came together in the awesome, soft light on the tundra.
All in all it was craziness out there….even when Guide Sandra’s travelers’ rover was held hostage by an aggressive male. After sampling the mud flaps behind most of the wheels, he stomped, huffed and chuffed for a long while before allowing the vehicle to move on. This all happened just past the launch site. After that, the day included many, many bears, an Arctic Hare and some Glaucous Gulls mostly out near Gordon Point.
The perfect finishing touch to an amazing day was an aurora display later that evening following the cultural presentations.