Polar Bear Blog – Black Bears, Orphaned Cubs and Heat Waves

Well, where to begin… After a fairly chilly start to the season, we have had a couple days of plus weather, softening up the ground a bit even if it is not fully melting the snow cover. Even this heat wave, seems like its a weak early – the accompanying south winds have blown the shore ice out into the bay where it will lurk until the next blast comes from the north. It sure is an interesting year for sea ice so far…

The lake at Camp Nanuq is frozen enough to walk on, there are a few spots where the ‘snaps and crackles’ sounds a bit liquidy… so I might wait a while before testing it out with the Suburban – getting stuck is kind of fun, getting stuck in a lake is kind of a disaster. Still, if the forecast is correct and we dip back down to -10C at night, it won’t be long before our new driveway on the lake is in use.

Things got a bit ‘bear season’ crazy for the last few days and a lot has happened. Conservation was called to dart and trap a black bear that was wandering around the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. He’s pretty skinny and sure doesn’t look like he is in shape for winter so its pretty hard to say what’s going to happen with him. Right now, he is sitting in the polar bear jail. Most black bears that end up around Churchill are hunted or euthanized by Conservation but now with Bambi’s Law, I really wonder what will happen to this guy.

An ‘orphaned’ cub was captured near at the airport this year and almost immediately sent to the zoo. There’s some pretty depressing background stories on how at least one cub – likely this one – came to be orphaned this year but, honestly, I don’t even feel like getting into it this year. What’s done is done and its likely too late to fly a cub back to Churchill anyway. Like I’ve said before, the zoo bear thing is about the only time the ‘speed of Government’ is impressive. The zoo is taking a lot of flack about this but, make no mistake, the Province and Manitoba Conservation are the active players in this process.

All I can say is that there has to be a better way to trap polar bear up here, like some technology or means that can let Conservation know when a bear is in a trap instead of them just driving around randomly and checking the door. The longer a female is in a trap the more likely her cubs will either run and hide or get into trouble themselves… it happens every year. Ask anyone who’s been up here for a while…

But, anyways, some good news is that a couple families have shown up around Bird Cove, Halfway Point area. We watched a mother with two cubs of the year yesterday. She was very shy and stayed well out in Bird Cove but it was neat to watch her meander her way along the bay. She walked out to the water – quite likely smelling a seal that was floating out with the ice – and then simply hunkered down in the willows between the Ithaca and Bird Cove. There is a little ‘creek’ there where bears can just take a timeout if they feel like it. Hopefully, she stays out that way and doesn’t head towards town – chances are good, especially if the seal population is booming, we were pretty surprised to see one already.

Another surprise is the amount of arctic foxes toodling along the coast this year. For the last two or three years, arctic foxes have almost been non-existent in Churchill. Many of us were starting to think that the red fox had pushed them out of here for good but just yesterday, we saw three – not counting the two that hang out at Cape Merry… so maybe those little guys are a bit more resilient than we give them credit for.

Red foxes are still cruising the coast line too, in lean times, they will predate arctic foxes but judging by the lemming sightings this year – I don’t think its lean times. There are a lot of those little guys running around…

Another resilient character is ol’ Dancer. I have heard both that he is hunkered down in the willows by Great White Bear Lodge resting his weary bones but also that a bear has shown up at Ladoon’s who, well, doesn’t really do much except lie there. It will be really interesting to see if he has made the move to Brian’s dogs or if he has ‘learned’ to stay a bit further east. He was always a smart bear but, then again, boredom is boredom. Kind of waiting for DogFace, Snaggletooh and Buddy Boy to show up though (just our names for the other bears at Brian’s last year) but we’ll wait and see I guess.

Great northern lights last night – at least the few minutes I watched between waking up and accidentally falling back to sleep. It has been a bit of a slow start for aurora but hopefully, the skies are just hitting their stride – a show tonight would be pretty nice, especially with the warm weather we’re having. Of course, this warm weather also almost got me stuck yesterday – we’ve gotten spoiled with the nice frozen crust over the sand and gravel and, well, its not quite as frozen anymore!

The Port of Churchill continues to pump the grain ships through but there is heavy ice in the river now. Just a couple days ago, the tugs were being sent out to retrieve the buoys. The channel markers had been pulled out with the ice – sounds like it was a couple feet thick or more. Either way, there is a fair bit of ice building up against the dock, should keep everyone on their toes – especially the guys who own the ships… they are regularly seen around town, glued to their devices – either checking their investments’ status or possibly baseball scores, who can tell what rich people think.

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