When you see a Polar Bear in its wild, natural setting something comes over you. You forget your annoying facemask, stiff limbs from waiting, and the cold – nothing else matters. I lost count, but thankfully someone in our wonderful group of 15, kept track . . . we have had 21 bear sightings during our two days on the tundra with Nat Hab!
Today we watched bears amble across the snow, spar with one another, sleep in the willow, forage among the kelp along the shore of Hudson Bay, and come check us out in our Great White Bear Polar Rover.
Fate has thrown us together with 13 very compatible, interesting fellow bear-lovers on this adventure. All guided by Katrina who has kept us on track, educated, and entertained every step of the way. I will go into more detail about the many other quirky, unique, and interesting experiences we’ve had on our trip in a follow-up post.
These trips only run for six weeks in the fall, while the bears are transitioning back to the ice that will soon form on Hudson Bay. Once there, they will resume seal-hunting and fatten-up, regaining the 30% of their weight lost since the ice melted last June. A big percentage of the world’s Polar Bears, 850-950, return to this region annually and when they arrive fat and happy, males can be as large as 1,500 lbs, with females about half that size. Their paws are about 12” and when we weren’t seeing bears, we were seeing their tracks everywhere in the fresh snow.
At the end of the day, we were honored to see another female with her COY (cub of the year). The duo stayed some distance and the mother seemed a bit tentative, maybe she could smell a male somewhere nearby. A male would be a big threat and will kill unrelated cubs. We only saw single cubs and sightings of multiple births have not been seen as frequently as in the past. Cubs stay with their mother for up to two and a half years, resulting in males like we spotted yesterday, that can be as large as their mother.
It was another amazing day.
We saw the first Polar Bears, a mother and cub, appear out of the morning fog – it was mystical and magical. As the day with Nat Hab progressed, our Great White Bear Polar Rover plowed through ice and uneven terrain on the tundra in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area, and got the job done. We saw some bears more than once and lost track of how many sightings. Most of my time was spent behind binoculars, not a camera, but these are my favorite shots of the day. Enough said!