Polar Bears in Churchill Polar Bears in Churchill

Churchill – The Polar Bear Capital of the World

The town of Churchill is one of the few places on Earth where you can see the polar bears in their natural habitat. The town is also known as The Polar Bear Capital of the World, as it sits close to an important denning area for polar bears south of Cape Churchill in Wapusk National Park. There are about 15,000 polar bears in northern Canada, and 1,200 or so of them pass by or through this town in the fall (September to November), making their way to Hudson Bay as it begins to freeze over.
Churchill, Manitoba, Canada is situated between the western shore of Hudson Bay and the Churchill River, about 1,050 km north of Winnipeg. The lanscape of Manitoba Province range from the amazing barren tundra to cold lakes of the taiga and from towering boreal forest to spctacular prairie. There are no roads leading to the town of  Churchill, so tourists, eco-tourists, adventurers and photographers have to follow paved Highway #6 as far north as Thompson, Manitoba or continue along unpaved roads to the community of Gillam. From Thompson, they can fly to Churchill or hop aboard the train for an overnight to Churchill. Train service is also available from Gillam.
October and November are the best months to see polar bears as they get prepared to move out on the newly formed ice in search of seals. Every October onwards the vicinity of the town of Churchill in Manitoba province is host of about 1,200 polar bears. They make their way to the Hudson Bay when the waters freeze over usually around in mid-November where they hunt fur seals, their main food source. The polar bears will remain on the ice building up body fat, until the middle of the summer months when the ice starts to break up. Occasionally some polar prowlers wander into Churchill, that is why there is a Polar Bear Jail where unwanted guests are accommodated until the ice on Hudson's Bay is solid enough for them to continue their journey. After winter on the ice with a diet of ringed seals, bears return to the land in July when the ice breaks up and spend months touring the tundra with essentially nothing to eat. They derive sustenance from a thick layer of body fat built up over winter and spring.
The best way to see and photograph polar bears of Churchill is from specially modified buses known as tundra buggies. Between mid-October and mid-November when the bears wait on the vast peninsula until the water freezes on Hudson Bay, a lot of trail tours are organized on tundra buggies. To ensure the safety of guests, tundra Buggies are built very high off the ground. If required Tundra Buggies can also tow additional modules containing showers, dining facilities and bunks for overnight stays on the tundra. Before starting the trail tour, visitors are taught how to be Bear Aware. Polar bear has gained a reputation for being one of the most dangerous animals in the world, and for attacking and killing people and other animals for no reason. That is why is not is not recommended to go wandering bears outside of Churchill on your own. Polar bears are extremely dangerous, especially during the summer months when food is scarce.
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The polar bear is the largest land carnivore in the world and the largest bear after the Kodiak bear of Alaska. Polar bears are found in Russia, Denmark (Greenland), the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, Canada and Alaska. In the wild polar bears live up to age 25. Male polar bears may grow 3 m tall and weigh over 620 kg and females reach little more than 2 m and weigh 300 kg. Polar bears' fur consists of a dense, insulating undercoat topped by guard hairs of various lengths. It is not white – it just looks that way. Each hair shaft is pigment-free and transparent with a hollow core that scatters and reflects visible light, much like what happens with ice and snow. Their fur is allso oily so that their hairs don’t mat when wet, allowing the polar bears to easily shake free of water and any ice that may form after swimming. Polar Bears are good swimmers; their front paws are wide with slightly webbed toes; they paddle with their front feet and steer with their hind feet. The rough surfaces that cover paw’s pads help prevent polar bears from slipping up on the ice.
The Polar Bear Capital of the World is also known as Manitoba’s beluga whale watching hotspot, a birder’s paradise and one of the best places to experience the northern lights.
Whether you travel independently or as part of a package tour, The Polar Bear Capital of the World will serve as your main base camp. The town contains restaurants, bars, stores, medical facilities and lodgings. Polar Bear Lodge is a unique facility that permits the finest opportunity to view not only bears, but also other wildlife, the beauty of Northern Lights and sunrises and/or sunsets.
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