Hunting in Summer

Bears prefer ringed seals, actually ringed seal pups to be precise but, as opportunistic predators, many bears have tried out different techniques over the years.

At Seal River Lodge, a bear-viewing lodge north of Churchill, a young male was observed hunting beluga whales at the mouth of the river. He would find a boulder just below the water level and sit, amidst the current, waiting as the beluga whales headed back out with the tide.

At just the right moment, he would lunge on the back of a passing whale, fiercely biting the back of its neck and head hoping to take it down. He spent the better part of one summer ‘working’ this river with a decent amount of success. Over the years, bears have floated in the Churchill River seemingly ‘stalking’ belugas in the water and yet others have ridden ice floes or made attempts from the beach.

For the most part, however, it is the young females that discover new strategies. One year we watched a young (maybe 4 year old) female walk to the end of ‘Polar Bear Point’. For quite some time, she sat and watched a flock of eider ducks resting in the bay.

Eventually, she waded into the water and swam towards them. Closing in, she dove, swimming underwater until, pop!, the last eider disappeared. A while later, this little female climbed ashore with a mouthful of duck.

Young males take a bit more of a random approach, stalking almost anything that catches their attention in the summer, be it caribou or snowy owls. Sometimes it works but, from I have seen, it is more luck than any precise planning.

As for the large male bears, well, they can just amble over and take whatever they want, so they just hunt for a nice cool spot to sleep.

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