Polar Bear Blog – Ice and More Ice

Northwest winds are still the order of the day and the ice is stretching pretty far out onto the bay. Only two days ago, there was relatively no shore ice and the Churchill River was showing little signs of freezing. Today, the river is locked in, frozen up for good and the grease ice along the shore of Hudson Bay has already changed to pancake ice and that pancake has frozen together. In english, that means freeze-up is very close, folks…

Today, we filmed the shore ice and filmed polar bears walking out on the ice, testing its strength and looking for seals. We probably saw about eight bears walking west, into the wind, towards town or maybe Button Bay (the very first place to freeze in this area). So, if we’re lucky, there might be another week of bears (since the ice is still a little woozy) but probably not in the numbers seen this weekend, thirty to forty bears the last few days. Brians’ bears stay a little longer, he’ll be a popular guy for the next couple weeks, I would think…

If nothing changes and this is an early freeze-up then this could be the best year for polar bears in at least a decade, maybe even the best since the early nineties and the Mount Pinatubo bears. Two to three weeks extra on the ice in summer and a week early on the ice in the fall, this is a good thing for bears. Of course, it is warmer than normal, freezing rain today, a possible sign of global warming just to complicate things – but here’s a little twist on that, cold burns fat and a warmer fall should mean less energetic demands on bears that are already in very good shape – the bears are fat this year, even now. So, provided that next summer is not an insanely early breakup, this could be the perfect storm for bears. I predict high cub survival (there are many two year old cubs with moms this year), high sub-adult survival and probably high birth rate, likely with more than a few occurrences of triplets. Oh and the polar bears’ penises will be very large this year as well. So there.

I don’t know what to say to tourists coming up late in the season, other than pray for south winds but the ice is packed in pretty good right now. For me, this is a pretty nice thing, watching the bears, way out there, walking on the ice is a pretty awesome feeling, even better than seeing on close up beside a buggy. Its hard to explain why I really even care whether the bears have a good year or not but it feels good to see it happen.

I guess the poor Buggy One driver will have to work pretty hard this year, I hope he knows what he’s doing. I mean, I know the last little hiding spots in bear season – Dennis, Mark, Rob and Everett showed them to me – and I still have a trick or two up my sleeve but they have 90 bazillion dollars worth of camera gear so I’m sure that will work just as well.

There’s still around 30 bears in buggyland (some close, some far) but the weather forecast is northwest winds for the rest of the week. Now, I’m not going to say the bears are on their way out and I’m not going to say I told you so but sometimes this is kind of thing happens when you take mother nature for granted. We’ve extended the season by a week (now ending November 21 instead of 15th… my first buggy driving contract in 1999 ended on November 5th…) and this year, the first Cape Churchill trip was cancelled (by the way, it would have been spectacular… probably more bears than ever – hopefully, there’s still bears around for Cape II…). We only talk about climate change and saving the bears not the bears themselves. But maybe I’m wrong and the bears will stick around until late November, maybe. After all, it is the ‘Year of the Polar Bear’.

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