After a pretty busy morning meeting the train and even more unpacking, we managed to get out for a quick bear tour in the afternoon. Sure enough, Ithaca Cove managed to provide a pretty special encounter.
Today, a young female was nestled in the rocks near the bay. She was pretty content, nose pointing out to the water as the tide receded. She had a tiny bit of blood on her lips and paws so that’s a pretty good indication of some early season hunting success. When she finally stood up, she looked to be in pretty good shape as well.
She was a nice clean bear, probably about four, maybe five years old, no scars and none of the ‘crookedness’ that comes with age. A bear that will probably enter her first breeding year on the ice and have her first litter late next year. This all depends on her hunting prowess, of course, as she will simply reabsorb the egg if she is not carrying enough weight next September. But, I’d say I have a fair bit of confidence in this bear.
In fact, this ‘little’ bear kind of reminded us of a bear that stayed at Ladoon’s two years ago. This one was a young female, a bear that would have fallen into the ‘orphaned’ cub category. She kind of patrolled the edge of Ladoon’s dog kennel for much of the season, staying away from the big males, kind of like a little ghost. But she had a pretty peaceful manner and we got some good shots – hopefully enough shots in both years to identify her with the Whiskerprint program… we’ll find out soon enough.
Either way, she managed to make it through those first critical years and, seemingly, here she is, healthy and hunting. She let us approach to probably 50 metres, occasionally rolling and stretching. Standing up and scanning when a vehicle or helicopter passed by in the distance. Pretty wary but we managed to stay within the proper ‘bear etiquette’.
At this time of year, snow squalls and sometimes rain pass through Churchill constantly but late in the day, the clouds opened up and we had some great golden light on her. It was just a really nice day.
We had just started heading back to the vehicles as the first wave of cool night air hit. Once the sun sinks low enough, you can feel day give way to night and, of course, this triggers a bit of a change in the bears as well. Pretty bear was no different, she got up stretched and started to walk down to the shore, scenting the now chilly breeze.
It is these encounters that you kind of have to watch. A bear can really lull you into a sense of calm confidence and for much of the day, Pretty Bear had been really tolerant and really cooperative. This same bear had now disappeared into the rocks and, as I kind of suspected, was flanking us, just out of sight. Maybe she was just coming around for another look, or maybe she was looking for a moment of weakness, its hard to say.
Thankfully, we were back inside the vehicles once her confidence tipped the scales in her favour. We watched as she came over first to our truck and then the next one, exploring each one for weaknesses and new smells, peaking over the box of the truck and then strolling down the road, investigating kelp, grasses and anything she could find.
We called her Pretty Bear as kind of a nod to a well-known bear that visited Churchill over and over through the late 80s and into the 1990s. She was successful mother and a welcome sight, hopefully this new version of Pretty Bear does just as well.