Its a late start this year, for both the ice and the blog. It looks like it might be a late finish too. The El Nino that was predicted last year may finally have hit. Almost no shore ice can be seen along the Churchill coast line, a few of the small bays showed signs of freezeup but today’s spike in temperatures, a high of +1C, has melted a good chunk of that ice. There is ice moving, along with the occasional bear riding the floes, in the Churchill River but for now it remains open. Lots of wind the last few days and lots of changes in temperatures.
The bears are starting to move. Yesterday, we had a nice family group, a mother with two yearling cubs, she camped out on Bird Cove and was promptly joined by twelve rental cars with professional photographers slowly circling the esker. Bear season has gotten pretty busy in this ‘no mans land’ between Churchill and ‘buggyland’.
Once the light disappeared so did the crowd and another family, this time an old female with one cub of the year. She boldly moved in and chased the other family group out of their day bed, briefly laying her claim to the snow bank before continuing west and settling down at the whale stands, just along the edge of Ladoons.
Yet another family group is camped at Mile Three gravel pit, curled up just out of sight of the main trails. For much of the day, photographers drove past her while searching for bears. Another older female, she stayed confident and chilled on her gravelly perch, sheltered by the willows. Her young cub ventured out occasionally but never too far away from his mother. She really only stood up when cracker shells were heard from further up the coast, even helicopters did not disturb her. She’s clearly a return guest of Churchill.
Today, a large, old male has moved into the area from out east, soon he started pushing a younger bear along the coast, checked out Ladoon’s and then camped out by the Canadian flag at the A-Frame. A young female has also returned to Mile Five, she looks to be the same little bear as last year, mostly hanging around the edge of the action. Red foxes – three today – and ptarmigan are pretty abundant, no arctic foxes yet. A snowy owl still cruises the tidal flats at about mid-tide.
Forecast looks mild for the rest of the week and the season feels like its about ten days late. Most of the snow has melted so there is a distinctly ‘October’ feel to the landscape. All told I’d say there’s about 10-12 bears along the road system and another 15-20 more in buggyland. That’s close to ‘peak season’ numbers without any ice.
Forecast looks pretty mild for the next week – still above zero most days… Bears will keep moving east, heading towards the best spots for early season ice… without any ice. Polar bear jail could actually fill up this year… then again, we’ve seen this coastline freeze in a matter of days too. Still it feels a bit different this year. So far at least.