The Elusive Polar Bear

August 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm (Life) (, , )

Churchill takes its polar bears seriously. Even the locals don’t wander down by the bay when it’s polar bear season.

A lone sentry, hired by Parks Canada, kept an eye out for polar bears as we toured Cape Merry Battery.

In the Hudson Bay population, an adult male typically weighs more than 400 kg (850 lbs); females are approximately half the size of male bears. A polar bear is best observed from far away.

Polar bears are naturally curious, but seem to prefer avoiding confrontations with humans or other polar bears. They are very Zen, especially in the summer, when moving wears off calories they can’t afford to lose. Polar Bears are strong, fast, and agile. Though, Polar bears may appear slow and docile, they are capable of moving swiftly and with purpose in the blink of an eye. They can absolutely run faster than me!

In summer, the bears spend their time in a fasting state, conserving energy and trying to keep cool while they await the return of the sea ice in mid-November. The best time, of the year, to view the bears is in October and November. Our tour provider was very upfront about the possibility of us seeing a polar bear which they estimated at 25%.

There were reports of an early morning bear, out and about by the local bakery when we were in Churchill. Eldest sister says she heard the warning shots used to scare the bears out of town. When a bear is detected in an area of human use, they are chased away or removed. Repeat offenders get sent to Polar Bear jail.

We spent part of our time in Churchill stalking the elusive polar bear. We went on a Tundra Buggy tour and explored the tundra. We enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch and got excited at possible bear sightings that may or may not have been just large, white rocks. Rules and regulations prevented us from driving up close to investigate and those with binoculars could not confirm – bear or rock! It was summer. It was hot. Our tour ran from 11am – 3pm, in the heat of a twenty degree (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit) day. If there were polar bears out, they were most likely sleeping.

In spite of the odds, we were lucky enough to have a polar bear encounter, in August, in Churchill.

Thankfully, that morning the sentry had seen a bear as we were touring Cape Merry Battery. He had very good eyes and we had binoculars. Opposite us, on Eskimo Point, were three bears (mother, cub & a large male). Some on the tour could spot the bears with their bare eyes; I could not. However, I did view what I presume to be the male (the polar bear seemed very large) through the binoculars. Honestly, I don’t think I’d want to see a Polar Bear any closer than that.

For more information on Polar Bears, you can view these DVDs:

The Accessible Arctic…Churchill, MB…Tree Line productions… (1-888-389-2327).

On the Tracks of the Polar Bear…Jean-Claude Kientzi… (

1 Comment

  1. Stubblejumpin' Gal (Kate) said,

    I understand your not wanting to meet up with one. Almost 30 years ago I went into a museum in Kelowna that had a stuffed polar bear, and I was AFRAID of it. I knew it was dead, but I was still afraid of it. It was HUGE and it was SCARY, and no amount of telling myself I was being silly made a darn bit of difference.

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