Sunday, 20 November 2011

Churchill Polar Bears 10th November 2011: Magical sighting of Mother and Cubs

Mother and cubs in the early morning

Today, a small part of our group went on a tundra buggy tour. This is controversial due to their environmental impact and the practices of the operators, as I explored in greater detail last year and therefore I didn't join them. Despite this, it is the standard method of bear viewing for other, less environmentally aware tour groups. This time, I received fewer disturbing reports about the driver’s behaviour than I experienced myself in 2010, but this variability only serves to reinforce the fact that there is insufficient supervision and monitoring by operators.

The cubs

As if to reward those who chose lower impact tourism, those who stayed on the bus had a magical sighting of a mother and two cubs in the early morning sunlight, emerging from the tundra and crossing the road in front of us. I’m a keen photographer, and this allowed me to capture some images I will enjoy looking at for years to come (see the whole sequence below).

Cape Merry

We also visited the Parks Canada site at Cape Merry, where the wind is always biting, and saw Polar Bear Jail, a building unique in the world. Chuck Jonkel was instrumental in lobbying to set up this bear management scheme. Jail is where bears at risk from human interaction are taken, and given no food, only water so as not to reward them. They are airlifted north when the ice forms, a strategy which is proving effective; and whilst unpleasant for the bears is preferable to them being shot. Sadly, Jail is almost full at present, with around 60 bears there.

Dogs and a bear at Ladoon's property

This population has been swelled by 7 bears removed from Brian Ladoon’s property: I blogged in some detail about this last year. Ladoon has been over-feeding his dogs to attract bears, so he can then charge tourists to watch the spectacle of bears ‘playing with’, or at times being killed by, polar bears. When we passed Ladoon’s today, there was only one bear in the area, and it is encouraging that Manitoba Conservation is finally taking some action by removing bears to jail.

Next post: Northern Lights
Previous post: Exhilaration and Sadness

The sequence of photographs above, taken from our bus, proves that ethical bear viewing, without use of tundra buggies, can be exhilaratingly beautiful

 Sunsets over Churchill are a moving experience

Walk by the beach earlier in the day 




 Cape Merry

Presentation from Parks Canada at Cape Merry (the wind was biting here)

Cape Merry

Chuck talking about bear management strategies in Churchill 

Polar bear jail 

Gypsies, the best place to eat in town 

Churchill with the port building in the background

Susan and Jeri at Gypsies with hot chocolate

Jeri and Jeremy at Gypsies

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