December 13, 2021

End of Bear Season Newsletter


As we conclude the emotional roller coaster that is polar bear season in Churchill we are happy to report that as of early December the vast majority of bears are out on the ice. The last few days there have been a couple of bears poking around but now there is enough ice that they should be gone soon.  

The season started in early October with relatively mild temperatures allowing for some quality polar bear experiences on the fall tundra without all the cumbersome winter gear. The lack of snow and ice early in the season provided some unique photographic opportunities that help tell the story of climate change and polar bears. Each year it’s becoming tougher to predict when the first snowfall will stick and when the ice formation is solid enough for the bears to begin their migration. The images below show that snow and ice aren’t needed to produce spectacular photos of polar bears.

Image 1 © Henrik Nilsson, Image 2 © Henrik Nilsson, Image 3 © Brooke Bartleson, Image 4 © Brooke Bartleson

Despite some excellent bear encounters there was a real danger that the aurora would steal the show with some epic performances in the early season. October/November isn’t usually known for its aurora viewing, but milder temperatures delayed the cooling off of the Bay which normally generates the cloud cover associated with polar bear season. We don’t publicly advertise aurora viewing during polar bear season because the odds of seeing the northern lights in October/November are relatively low, but you can always count on us to monitor the skies and take you to some of our favourite spots to view and photograph the aurora should they be visible. 

Image 1 © Jon Kuiper, Image 2 © Jenny Wong, Image 3 © Harry Skeggs, Image 4 © Andy Y. Wang

Besides the polar bears this year will go down as the year the snowy owls returned to Churchill. After a few years absence we had many good looks at snowy owls as well as a good number of silver fox sightings. We also had a record number of arctic hare sightings but as a testament to their camouflage they disappeared when the snows came. Speaking of camouflage, arctic foxes are just as tough to spot when the snow has fallen. The arctic fox population comes in cycles, but there’s no doubt the red fox has been invading the arctic fox’s territory resulting in fewer numbers. One day in particular stood out as the day everyone got a shot of a very agreeable arctic fox. 

Image 1 © Drew Hamilton, Image 2 © Darren McTee, Image 3 © Max Block, Image 4 © Arthur Lefo

For most of polar bear season temperatures were fairly mild right up until they weren’t.  When the cold finally hit the Bay froze relatively quickly. Our last tour was on November 23rd watching bears test the ice. Within a couple days the ice was blown off shore taking the most of the bears with it. 

Image 1 © Alex DeVries, Image 2 © Drew Hamilton

With the bears out on the ice catching seals we start looking towards the skies for our next adventure. Join us this February or March for our northern lights packages.