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Posts Tagged ‘polar bear mom with cubs’

Memories of the Great Ice Bear Adventure at Dymond Lake Lodge… and more to come!

by Nolan Booth

Terri, Steve, Rob and the girls and I really thought we had bit off more than we could chew last year at Dymond Lake Lodge when it came to upgrading, but in the end it all worked out beautifully!

The new lake shore cabin with four guest rooms, two staff rooms and an amazing lounge were just a shell eight days before our first guests of the season arrived for the Great Ice Bear Adventure, but everybody stepped up and the new cabin was ready before the first bed was needed. In hindsight, this just showed what a dynamite crew we have. Everybody pulled together and got the job done when it counted! The rooms are spacious and the décor is beautiful for a remote lodge in northern Canada.

Once again we had a great season! We were very happy to have a young polar bear around all season and we nicknamed him Scarbrow. He came and went as he pleased, but he spent a fair bit of time at the Lodge fence throughout the season, and on more days than not he would put on a show. There were days when he would he play in the snow on the edge of the lake, and others when he would follow us around the compound. And on numerous occasions he would follow the guests out to the Bay for some exercise.

It was amazing! I had really high expectations and the experience lived up to them. All of the staff were very friendly and the logistics were well coordinated – everything went very smoothly. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and really added to our experience. I’m so glad I opted for Churchill Wild rather than the typical polar buggy tour. Seeing a polar bear on foot was unforgettable!

~ Debra Hartsell & Michael James

We also had an amazing weasel experience for the second year in a row! Our little short-tailed weasel lived inside the compound for the entire season. He probably felt safer in the generator room than out in the open with that Gyrfalcon overhead. Two wolverines also stayed near the Lodge and were in focus on many occasions. And we had many foxes all around camp and up and down the coast. They were mostly cross foxes. The arctic foxes seemed to be scarcer last year, probably due to the presence of the wolverines.

Our polar bears were amazing, but we all agreed that their travel patterns were different than we ever remember seeing. I personally saw more bears in 2012 than I had in previous seasons, but many of these were a ways out from the shore and heading north. On most days we managed to get some nice face time with a polar bear in good light.

After 40 years, my heart still skips a beat, whether it be while I’m watching polar bears though my binoculars or walking step by step with them down the trail, but there is also nothing better than polar bear watching through the safety of the fence at the Lodge, with the sun high in the sky and crystals sparkling in the snow.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in helping to create my wonderful memories of Dymond Lake Lodge. Looking forward to more of the same this year!

Great Ice Bear Adventure - Polar bear mom with cubs at Dymond Lake Lodge

Polar bear mom with cubs at Dymond Lake Lodge

Great news for Polar Bears! Bad News for Birds.

polar-bear-with-cubs

Polar Bear with Cubs in Churchill, Manitoba - Michael Poliza Photo

Life often deals winning and losing hands at the same time – and it all depends who gets the Aces. This year, it’s the polar bears of the Eastern Arctic and Western Hudson Bay who are winning, with the longest, coldest spring in decades. This follows last year’s “normal” spring, with ice persisting on Hudson Bay until mid- August.

Over the past 40 years, scientific knowledge of the ecology of western Hudson Bay has expanded at a tremendous rate. The famous white bears of Churchill were familiar to anyone who lived in the area for as long as anyone’s notes or memory extends. In fact, due to the exceptional interests of several of the traders working for the Hudson Bay Company, Churchill is credited with having the oldest and most accurate birding records of any location in the world! Weather and climate data, and observations of many other natural features were also accurately recorded for almost 400 years. Largely missing from this body of data were scientifically verified details about the intimate lives of the bears and birds – how and when they reproduced, how many offspring they had, growth rates, physiological details etc.  That type of knowledge began to rapidly accumulate in the 1960s and ‘70s, with the change in Churchill’s economic focus from trading, shipping and military towards research and ecotourism.

In a nutshell, key points from what was learned about the birds and the bears included the fact that the birds arrive in a rush in the spring (that’s late April and May, not July!). They arrive carrying fat stores and developing eggs in their bodies – essential because the weather does not usually allow them to put on weight when they arrive – everything is still emerging from the grip of winter. Some of the birds nest near Churchill, but the majority will only pass through – heading for the food-rich predator-limited conditions offered by the burst of life in the Arctic summer.

For the polar bears, spring is also a critical time of year. Unlike the other bears most of us are familiar with, which pack on weight in late summer and autumn before their winter’s sleep, the polar bears’ boom time is spring – from April to July – when the young seals are born. These young seals grow at tremendous rates (their bodies may be 50% fat) and are very available to the bears because of their inexperience. The bears slowly lose weight throughout the remainder of the year, so the right conditions in springtime are essential.

Keeping the key points above in mind, it’s easy to understand why 2009 has winners and losers. The birds are trapped by the weather, food is limited and they use up their fat stores. They absorb their growing eggs or lay their eggs only to have them freeze. And finally they head south again without nesting.

On the other hand, the polar bears bask in the cool spring conditions, feeding on seals for a month or more – longer than average. The end result is large numbers of fat and healthy polar bears, with numerous healthy cubs – and great bear watching seasons in 2009 and 2010!