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Polar bears abound in final week of 2014 Birds, Bears & Belugas Adventure!

Mom and Cubs on final day of Birds, Bears and Belugas. David Walker photo

Mom and cubs on final day of Birds, Bears and Belugas. David Walker photo

by Terry Elliot, Churchill Wild Polar Bear Guide

We had a great time on the Birds. Bears & Belugas Adventure this year thanks to fabulous guests and co-operative wildlife, but the final week was a real treat!

After getting everyone orientated, we set out on a hike to view a young female polar bear on a point just north of the Lodge. We watched her sleeping peacefully and decided to carry on a little further north.

We then got a call on the radio that a mother and her two cubs were approaching the Lodge from the south. We made our way back and had a great view of her as she passed by.

Back to the lodge for appetizers, and another mother with a second year cub emerged from the water and circled around us. Then another mother with two cubs rolled in from the south and sauntered right up to the windows!

We found her more interesting than she found us, so she went down to the beach, dug a day bed and nursed her cubs in full view and beautiful light!

Young polar bears sparring. What a treat! Fred Walker photo.

Young polar bears sparring. What a treat! Fred Walker photo.

We also saw a beautiful black wolf on the flats hunting and watched him for about 30 minutes before hiking out to find the bear that had passed by the dining room windows. Low and behold there were two more bears sparring! And just to top everything off, our beluga swim was incredible!

It was a wonderful ending to a great season of  Birds. Bears & Belugas.

A sincere thank you to all our wonderful guests this year, we really enjoyed your company!

Black wolf says goodbye after a great season!  Fred Walker photo.

Black wolf says goodbye after a great season! Fred Walker photo.

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…

Rhino II adds Mom and Cub to memory banks at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Polar Bear Mom and Cub at Nanuk

Polar bear Mom and Cub at Nanuk Polar bear Lodge.

At 9 p.m. last night our hard working crew of builders at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge decided it was time to blow off a little steam and go for a ride in our new custom-built Rhino II all-terrain vehicle. We’ll call it that for now, at least until our guests decide to overrule us with something better. West was our direction of choice this time and off we went.

About a kilometre from the Lodge we spotted a nice size polar bear out on the coast, but it was too far out in the surf to get a decent look, so onward we went, enjoying a beautiful evening and some good laughs.

Kelly, one of our carpenters, spotted a bear at 300 metres and we decide to try a little stalk with the new Rhino. We closed the gap to approximately 100 metres and were treated to a close-up of a very healthy looking Mom and her COY (cub of the year), who would be lucky to tip the scale at 40 pounds. We shut off  Rhino II and parked to enjoy the show!

Mom got up and decided to our delight that we had worked hard and that we should have a better look. The wander and stretch began and they closed the gap to 60 metres, deciding that a nearby sandbar would be a good vantage point to watch us from.

We spent another 20 minutes chatting and laughing in amazement before deciding to back up and let them be. Mom wasn’t bothered by us a bit. She never even stood up. Baby got up and checked us out one last time as we rode off into the sunset, with yet another shared piece of awesomeness…

for the memory banks.

We don’t play soccer at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. We might now.

by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations, Churchill Wild

Look what I found!

Look what I found!

We have a new hire this year and it’s been a pleasure to have him around. Joshua Robson came on board this past winter to help with the hauling of equipment and materials over the sea ice to Seal River Heritage Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge. We cut wood and hauled materials for 10 days and Josh was instantly hooked on our lifestyle.

Josh made his love of soccer known from the very beginning. He had traveled to Ecuador on a mission to build homes, and his stories of playing soccer with the kids as a way of getting to know them were inspiring.

We don’t play soccer at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. We don’t own a soccer ball, and the bears would likely be too tough to beat anyways. Eating the ball all the time and… well, you know.

Anyways, last Friday night a funny thing happened. The guys and I needed to get out of the compound and blow off a little steam after a long week so we gassed up the bikes and loaded up the new Rhino II for its maiden voyage to the Mistikokan River east of the Lodge.

After about an hour of laughing and bumping along the coast with numerous stops on the sand ridges to gather handfuls of fresh strawberries, take photos of giant wolf prints in the mud and enjoy a wandering polar bear, we were nearing the river and the end of our journey, when Josh suddenly yells “Soccer Ball! and jumps out of the moving vehicle to snare his prize.

A young man with an extreme love of soccer, finds an old weathered soccer ball still full of air, hundreds of miles away from civilization, on the remote coast of Hudson Bay. What are the chances of that?

Good karma.

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.