Well, that’s all she wrote for another season, ice is packed in and the bears are gone. Time to catch up on blogs and sleep! The south wind arrived a couple days late and was unable to push the ice out, simply opening up a few leads and attracting a few photographers waiting for a potential seal kill that never materialized.
From what I can see, I would peg freezeup as November 13th this year, a couple days early but pretty much right on time. There were a couple more days of bears but mostly they were mother and cubs emerging from the willows and heading straight out on the bay. Its always a bit surprising at just how many bears sit the season out, hunkered down just inland until the last days of the season.
With these families appearing, it really sums up at just what a productive season this has been for the western Hudson Bay population. Any guide who knows their stuff will tell you this was a banner year for cubs, one we haven’t seen in a long time. With this early freezeup and hopefully a later breakup next spring, this could really restore the balance to this population and quell the death knells heard in the media. Or maybe not. We’ll see.
Conservation even started releasing bears early this year, with their first releases to the ice starting on the 14th and continuing over the next few days. Almost all the bears just trucked out on the ice, one or two made a quick loop back to land but seal hunting conditions are prime right now so there’s not much draw to keep them here.
In fact, seal kills have been spotted since late October on the shore ice and tidal flats, another positive sign. During my flight out to Cape, we saw tracks to and from the ice edge and in the past few days, you can see a few black dots raise their head out on the ice near Churchill. The seals are out there and so are the bears, now its just a race to get a quick meal or two before the ice gets too heavy.
It sounds like there are still bears along the coast heading north, it is a bit of a different freezeup along that coast. A lot of bears were flown north this year and it will be interesting to see how this renewed focus on helicopter bear lifts affects the bears movement patterns. This year, two sets of mothers and cubs arrived at Dymond Lake Lodge without green dots or signs of handling, looks like they may have summered north of the Churchill River, seemingly an increasing trend.
As for ‘after bear season’, we’ve had some pretty good wildlife. There was a nice arctic fox encounter and a least weasel made a surprise appearance on the coast, cruising along with a lemming in his mouth, stashing and caching. Arctic foxes have appeared, still low in numbers here although there seem to be a lot near Seal River this season. Yesterday, we watched a red fox head way out on the ice seemingly following a polar bear, pretty cool – this is usually an arctic fox thing but animals never cease to amaze.
But mostly, its time to wind down. I will catch up on some of my journal entries from this season and get them online, its been a busy one – both for film crews and for bears and, of course, for politics but that might not make the official blog, ha.