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Seal River Heritage Lodge

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…

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

Archaeology trip to Hubbart Point

by Terry Elliot, Churchill Wild Polar Bear Guide

Unearthing history at Hubbart Point.

Unearthing history at Hubbart Point.

A very interesting week!

We hosted an archaeology trip at Hubbart Point and it was awesome to learn about the history of this spectacular area. Elders from Arviat, whose ancestors actually lived there, were able to explain so much about the old structures we found.

We marked 218 specific sites, and there were still more that we continued to notice as the week went on. Summer and winter houses (now I know the difference), food caches, fox traps, wells, cooking shelters and more. During the initial digs we found tools, seal, caribou, whale and bear bones, broken cooking pots and fire pits.

The site sits at approximately 18 metres above sea level, so we determined roughly that it has been in use for the last 1500 to 1800 years. The Thule people are the direct descendants of modern Inuit and for us it was a great lesson in how they lived.

The summer is shaping up to be awesome for polar bears. We have been seeing 6 to 8 bears each day, (including six sets of mothers and cubs so far) and they are all looking fat and healthy.

And I don’t think that I’ve ever seen so many belugas in the Seal River estuary!

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!