Polar Bear Blog – Moose Bits and Wolverines

Lots of folks are out moose hunting now, either north of Churchill around North River delta, south near Twin Lakes or up the hydro line. Hunting season, of course, means gut pile season too and that’s pretty good or wildlife watchers (in a way, ha). Today, we watched a couple arctic foxes and a red fox hanging around a carcass just inland from the cabin. All three had totally different levels of tolerance to our presence but I would think that they’ll get pretty used to us over the next few days.

Wolverine tracks can be seen going to and from the moose, kind of like little bear tracks with a bit of wolf mixed in there. Wolverine tracks always seem to have kind of a ‘terminator’ feel to them, more of a purpose than the surrounding fox meanderings for sure. Hopefully, we’ll run into him one of these mornings, our neighbour over at Spruce Ridge had him cruise through his yard so, he’s definitely hanging around the area.

This year’s bounty of arctic foxes is dwindling a bit. The sheer numbers of them this year kind of result in a bit of roadkill, red fox predation and, once their tails turn pure white, then the community trapline will likely take care of the rest. Hopefully a few make it through, its nice to see them around even if folks are getting a bit weary of fox shit on their porches.

Only a year ago, most of us were wondering if we had seen the last of the arctic fox around this area. There has been a lot of speculation that red foxes had moved in with a warming climate and taken over the good denning territory. BBC showed up last year for an arctic fox documentary and pretty much got skunked – almost unheard of around here.

So, of course, Mother Nature through a little twist into things and sent an army of arctic foxes to invade Churchill. We were all pretty excited when one or two showed up and then by season’s end, there was probably thirty or more roaming between town and buggyland; maybe a dozen or so around the port by the end of their shipping season. So, there you go – probably best not to think we really know what’s going on out there…

It also seems like a pretty good crop of Ptarmigan kicking around, a nice flock was puttering around near the Studies Centre and there are more tracks in behind Lord Lake – we’ll go look for the track makers tomorrow or the next day… Other than that, ravens and gray jays out at this end of the road. A flock of house sparrows has taken up residence in L5, the recycling centre, but pretty quiet for birds these days.

Then again, the trees are heavy with snow and hoar frost and the low, golden light of December hangs in the air. The sun breaks the horizon around 9am but sunrise starts almost an hour or more before that, same goes for sunset – after the sun sinks below the treeline, the sky slowly shifts from pink pastels to deep orange and finally blue. By 5pm, the wait for northern lights has begun.

As much as I like the insanity of bear season, December is pretty amazing up here. The lights of the tundra lodges are gone and, aside from the airport, the horizon is barren. Its super easy to feel like you’ve stepped off the edge of the world, even if its a ridge or lake away from the road. Highway traffic consists of maybe one truck, all the buses put to bed for the winter.

Even in town, Gypsy Bakery is now closed until the new year. The Tundra lounge is done for another year – probably a good thing for me! – and, well, Northern Nights is still burnt down the last I heard! A visitor or two might patrol the streets until a small wave of groups arrives in February for Northern Lights season.

The temperatures hover around -30C, sometimes we’re told that the windchill is -40C or more – its hard to tell when it gets this cold, even a small breeze makes it minus forty I guess. Still, it doesn’t really stop folks from taking a walk, I even saw someone jogging along the highway. Some days you can almost feel the sigh of relief hanging over the town now that Port and Bear Season are over.

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