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Polar bear fight on Hudson Bay puts kink in plans at Seal River Lodge (in a good way!)

Polar bear pounces on rivals in Hudson Bay.

Polar bear pounces on rivals in Hudson Bay.

by Andy MacPherson, Polar Bear Guide

The winds blowing from the northeast put a small kink in our planned activities for the morning, but three restless polar bears stirring on One Bear Point certainly provided enough distraction to keep everyone’s mind off the weather.

And the change of plans paid off in photo opportunities!

After breakfast I went out to see if our neighbours had begun to move, but I was too late. They had already ventured 100 meters into the water and were fully engaged in a three-way brouhaha! We spread the word to the guests that departure time was moved up and all came surging out of the Lodge to watch the melee from ringside seats. Front row!

The bears were already swinging for the cheap seats and leaping off the turnbuckles as we settled in for the show. Sucker punches were definitely part of the action and an ongoing hushed commentary could be heard from the guests.

Mork, a resident bear, was chewing on Bob’s neck, while Nanu Nanu circled looking for a weakness before submarining and emerging to pounce and dunk whichever rival was within his reach. The show and the combatants never seemed to slow down.  Moving back and forth in front of us in the water, the bears used every tactical advantage the terrain provided, especially boulders. To climb on, hide behind and leap from.

Amazing!

Ouch! Just kidding. Love bite.

Ouch!!! Just kidding. Love bite.

What were we going to do for an encore? How about a Beluga trip?

Low and behold the wind dropped and the sea calmed as we finished our lunch. The decision was made to try a dropping-tide Beluga trip on the spur of the moment, and everyone rushed to catch the high water before it was too late to launch the Zodiacs. The weather and whales cooperated and everyone was excited to have another opportunity to commune with the whales, both from the surface and in the water.

We ended the perfect day with a glass of wine before bed, and the promise of Northern Lights still to come.

Fingers crossed.

A perfect day  for polar bears.

A perfect day for polar bears…

Polar bear outsmarts wolf, or…

Come closer. I won't eat you. I promise.

Come closer. I won’t eat you. I promise.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Wow, did we have a great breakfast encounter!

Our group of tuckered out carpenters had a little extra sleep, and our 9 a.m. Sunday breakfast was well deserved after many long hours of hard work on the new guest accommodations at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge.

The sun was shining and there was a light breeze from the east at 9:20 a.m. when Shelby spotted a young polar bear through the scope. The bear was wandering westward down the coast at a fair pace and following the tide line.

At the same time, Mike Sigurdsson noticed a nice black wolf wandering on a sandbar moving eastward towards the Lodge. Someone at the table said, “I wonder what will happen if they meet?”

We found out!

The wolf spotted the bear first and immediately turned and ran 100 metres in the opposite direction. He then stopped for a look. The bear continued to wander west, getting closer by the minute. Then the wolf decided to try a different tactic and bolted straight towards the young stocky white bear.

To everyone’s surprise the polar bear darted and ran straight north into the depths of Hudson Bay. The last we saw of the bear was a swimming white bum heading north.

We decided that one of two things must have happened. First, bears are believed to have a great memory, and this one may have had a previous run-in with a pack of wolves. Second, this bear may have known something we didn’t. The rest of the pack may have been hiding in the willows ready to back up their leader.

Polar bears live in an unforgiving environment and even a small injury could lead to an untimely death, so it’s possible the bear just decided that running (and swimming) away were the safest actions at the time.

He was fat and very healthy after a long winter of eating seals, and a meal at this time of year was not high on the priority list, especially not a wolf…

with an ambush in the waiting.

Whose afraid of the big bad wolf?

No thanks, I’m a little smarter than that.

 

Sunset cruise for Belugas on Hudson Bay

Evening cruise to see Belugas on Hudson Bay

Evening cruise to see Belugas on Hudson Bay

by Andy MacPherson, Polar Bear Guide

The wind had died down. The only traces of today’s earlier gale were the smooth glass swells slipping beneath us as we cruised towards the Seal River.

Just 30 minutes earlier we were sitting down to fresh baked apple pie and homemade vanilla ice cream. Now we were on our way to see what the evening had in store for us.

The mouth of the Seal was calm. The Port of Churchill peaked over the horizon to the Southeast and the sound of the rapids reached out to us, waiting patiently for the whales to show themselves.

We weren’t disappointed.

As soon as the hydrophone was in the water we were regaled by the sounds of an orchestra tuning up to perform a symphony. Just for us!

Squeaks, groans, whistles and click trains… Belugas have been known to produce over 1200 different sounds and can even mimic human speech. Amazing! We were serenaded into the evening as the sun began to set. Whales circled our boats, surfacing as they came closer to investigate their own voices projected back to them from the speakers on the hydrophones.

Unfortunately we had to leave the show early, as we needed to make our way back to Seal River Lodge before the fire in the sky began to dip below the horizon.

A fine ending to a spectacular day.

Sunset at Seal River

Sunset at Seal River

Surrounded by polar bears, sharing a meal at Seal River Lodge

Polar bear mom and cub after seal lunch at Seal River Lodge

Mom and cub relaxing after lunch at Seal River.

by Mike Reimer

Wow! The action at Seal River Lodge is hot and heavy early this year for our great white bears just off the ice!

We’re literally “surrounded” by polar bears as we speak, just point the camera or scope at a point on the compass and you’re likely to see one or two bears. We’re not sure what caused this early concentration but we are not complaining!

Ever wondered what groups of animals are called?

Here at Seal River we have “gaggles” of geese, a “paddling” of duck, a “convocation” of eagles, a “colony” of gulls, a “husk” of Arctic Hares, and today we had a spectacular “sloth” of polar bears.

Six gorgeous bears spent the day sharing a ringed seal one of them had managed to catch. Said seal made the fatal mistake of falling asleep on a nice warm rock on lodge point while the tide was going out and forgot to leave, ending up several hundred meters from the receding water line. This is huge no-no when you are trying to survive on a coastline liberally sprinkled with hungry polar bears and you also happen to be loaded with thousands of calories of their favourite snack, seal fat!

This must have been one of those seals that didn’t belong in the gene pool, and it certainly provided hours of incredible polar bear watching for our Churchill Wild guests. The bears are satiated and fresh as they emerge from their icy Hudson Bay hunting grounds, but they’re certainly not going to pass up an easy meal.

At times there were as many as six bears, including a couple of family groups that were graciously sharing their prize. This certainly won’t be the case come fall when the new ice is forming and the last seal-meal is a distant memory. At present the bears look very well fed and in fabulous shape, so we’re looking forward to another great summer!

Shaping up to be one of our best polar bear viewing seasons yet!

Strolling through time at Nanuk

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Small girls. Big history. Mooswa.

Small girls. Big history. Moosawa.

We have the honor of doing a major construction project at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge this year with a big anniversary at hand.

One hundred years ago this summer, during the limited months that Hudson Bay was not frozen, a small vessel took on water and sunk near the shore just miles from what is now Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. To this day we still enjoy short trips out west to see the Moosawa and explore the area. Quite often there are polar bear or wolf tracks surrounding the vessel.

And if nothing else, it is just a nice place to sit up off the ground and think about our past and the incredible things people have accomplished on or near this unforgiving landscape.

About eight miles up the coast from Nanuk is the wreckage of a Hudson Bay Company boat which wrecked in 1914. Reportedly, the boat was never seaworthy enough for the shallow water of the bay. Strong winds and high waves resulted in the boat taking on water, the engine room filled and the ship broached.

We have done a fair bit of research and have even had scholars investigate the wreckage, yet to this day the name of this lady evades us. The only clue we have is a notation in the typed History of Nanuk booklet at the Lodge, which I would assume was started by the original owner and has been carried on over the years.

Not too many years ago Mike and Jeanne Reimer took over the Nanuk location and added it to the lodges in the Churchill Wild family. We are now creating new memories and writing our own history.

What will people discover about us 100 years from now?

Strolling through time...

Strolling through time… at Nanuk.