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Posts Tagged ‘Churchill polar bear’

World’s largest land carnivore gets right of way as fall polar bear season begins

Big Churchill polar bear at Seal River on Hudson Bay

World's largest land carnivore has right of way here

by Andy MacPherson

The start of a new fall polar bear season!

The Turbo Beaver being busy down south, our first group of guests arrived in style in a helicopter, landing right at our front door. After settling into their rooms and taking in a brief safety orientation, we had them out viewing polar bears Churchill Wild style before lunch.

There were three bears in the immediate vicinity and all were accommodating. We were able to get close and view all three without disturbing them from their day beds. At this time of year the polar bears are focused on conserving as much energy as possible in anticipation of freeze up and the availability of their favourite meal, ringed seals, which will help them replenish their waning fat reserves.

On our way back to the lodge for lunch we discovered that the first bear we’d stopped to view earlier had ambled into the bay north of us. He was now comfortably bedded down in a bed of kelp lying on his back; stretching and playing with a piece of kelp, pulling it gently threw his teeth as if he were flossing.

After lunch we hiked out towards the west, to Swan Lake and back. We were met by a subadult bear on our way back, walking towards us up the path. He stopped when we asked him to, looking a little confused as to why we were blocking ‘His’ way.  We moved off to one side, giving him the right of way – a smart thing to do when questioned by a polar bear. He passed by at a safe distance as our hearts pounded, pausing to get a good scent of us and posing for a few great photos along the way.

We are often approached by polar bears while we are out on hikes and away from the safety and comfort of the lodge. These are always exciting moments, and important times to be very observant of bear behaviour. Every bear that approaches us acts differently based on life experiences past and present. Negative or positive, these experiences will influence the way a bear reacts to us. This initial communication will determine our response to each approaching bear. While polar bears aren’t usually vocal, they do communicate very well through subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) body language and behaviour.

We watched the bear as he moved away from us and continued down the path towards Swan Lake, our excitement at his approach subsiding slightly as we moved back on to the path. Some of the guests asked where the bear was going and what he was thinking; how old he was and how much he weighed. Others marveled at what had just happened.

The largest land carnivore on the planet, a Churchill polar bear, had just walked by us and gone about his business, whatever that might be. It just wasn’t us…

at the moment.

A Glimpse of Daily Life at a Remote Northern Lodge

Churchill polar bears mom with cubby Elaine Friesen (Head Chef, Dymond Lake Lodge)

Everyone has different expectations when they come up for the Great Ice Bear Adventure. The guests of course, come primarily to see polar bears.

The first week we had a resident mother and cub hanging around the lodge, visible right out our window. This was very exciting for staff and guests alike, but on another day we polar bears from a distance. Every day is different.

My assistant Conny was excited when we got to see a wolverine eating a dead seal on the coast. The guests were impressed, but not at the same level – something Conny was confused by.

I reminded her that while we have seen our share of bears over the years, the guests come here to SEE THE BEARS.

Then Mary, our Inuit storyteller from Repulse Bay said, “Well, I came to see the trees.”

My bedroom is also the office/radio room, so a there is a fair bit of traffic going through. Nolan, the lodge manager, spends a fair bit of time in here on the computer or radio. But it’s a small price to pay to have my own room each night.

Today, for my break time, I am sharing my bed with a fully loaded gun belt, and someone’s – not mine – laundry – fortunately clean and folded. When I walked in, I thought – yup, I am definitely at a northern wildlife lodge!

Polar Bear tries to make off with D6 Cat at Seal River Lodge on Hudson Bay

Polar Bear decides to be cat driver on Hudson Bay

Polar Bear decides to be cat driver on Hudson Bay

In late March and early April we spend two weeks working between Churchill, Dymond Lake Lodge and Seal River Lodge. A typical day during these two weeks generally begins at 5 a.m. and goes until about 10:30 p.m.

What are we doing in below zero temperatures? On the frozen Hudson Bay? With the occasional white out thrown at us just for fun?

We are the Cat Train crew.

Those of you who have spent time with us at Seal River Lodge have probably seen the photos of the D6 Caterpillar hauling freight over the sea ice during the winter for various projects that are planned in advance for the summer. We also spend what seems like endless days cutting and hauling fire wood to both Seal River Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge.

D6 Cat towing 40,000 pounds on Hudson Bay

D6 Cat towing 40,000 pounds on Hudson Bay

We would like to introduce you to the newest member of our crew. He was a little eager and showed up about eight months early, but seems to be ready to go. This nice white bear decided he would try and take our Cat out for a spin, and a couple of our guests were lucky enough to snap a few shots before he noticed them.

For those of you who have not joined us at the Lodge I have also included a couple shots of the real cat train departing Churchill, Manitoba on its two-day trip, hauling almost 40,000 pounds en route to Seal River Lodge.

Cat train arrives at Seal River Lodge

Cat train arrives at Seal River Lodge