I woud say the coast near Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is ‘untouched’. Its not ‘undiscovered’, goose hunters were using this lodge for over thirty years before it evolved into a polar bear viewing destination. Of course, Swampy Cree hunters and trappers have been using this coastline a fair bit longer. Hudson’s Bay Company men worked this coast as well in the fur trade; being that we are only a hop, skip and a jump from York Factory National Historic Site, the location of HBC’s original logistics and administration centre in Canada.
Nanuk is blessed with a window into wildlife that is undisturbed by external influence, be it a neighbouring community, conservation officers, significant hunting pressures and/or helicopter-based research. There might be twenty people along this coast at any given moment, this is a blip in the wilderness. The almost non-existent human impact and the vast expanse of coastline allows a wide variety of wildlife to encounter visitors on their own terms. Hence, ‘untouched’ and the slightly cliched blog title, Galapagos North.
Aside from the varied and intimate encounters with polar bears, Nanuk hosts a wide range of animals. Each day, we watch eagles, peregrine and northern harriers ‘work’ the coastline, harassing or hunting the endless horde of geese; Canadas, Snows and everything in between. Early this morning, six wolves graced the coastline, travelling purposely along an ancient beach ridge. Yesterday, we caught up with a wolverine at the ‘Tornado River’, an encounter of a lifetime.
Wolverines, given their penchant to end up as parka trim, are pretty leery, most northerners (including myself) rarely if ever encountering them. So, the depth and length of this encounter was truly special. Wolverines cruise along in a clumsy-looking back-forward-back lope, almost resembling an oil drilling rig in alberta… of course, an oil drilling rig that covers a tremendous amount of ground and is almost the only animal that can stand down a polar bear.
Last night, a new bear approached the fence surrounding the lodge, first cautious, standing feet together, assessing the situation, eventually retreating into the willows before we could really get too close. In the night, he likely investigated on his terms and was sleeping outside the gate this morning, a new sense of comfort and confidence, waking up and checking the gate once a guest or two had assembled for pictures. After a time, he ambled away and off to the tidal zone, maybe to scan for a seal or two, maybe a goose or maybe just berries. Its really up to him.