Live from Churchill: Nov 14, 2009

Steve Selden November 14, 2009 0

Local Mike Macri was down at the “flats” just outside town on the Churchill River working on his bungalow; “Hacienda”,as he fondly refers to it; when he glanced toward the water and saw a Polar Bear floating in the water on thin grease ice. The bear was heading North toward the bay trying to remain on the surface of the precarious platform. Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up. The flats of Churchill houses an eclectic collection of cottages steeped in history. And, with the array of this tiny ‘cottages’ (seeing is believing) comes an even more eclectic collection of Churchillian characters. I surely couldn’t make them up. Mike has been trying to move things around on his property before the rumored official sub-division process takes place. Currently, anyone who has a building down there is technically “squatting” on the land. When the division process goes through, the lots will be offered for sale first to current tenants and then to the general public. Waterfront property on the Churchill River sounds good to me…ahhh Beluga’s and birds in the Summer; Polar Bears and Arctic Foxes in the Winter…wait, can you say Thomas Hearne? Yeah…um…scratch that idea!

Guide Melissa reports a “schwak” of bears with incredible numbers of mothers and cubs in the Churchill Wildlife Management area. Her group is astounded by the activity and numbers. Two consecutive years of late spring ice break-up has apparently allowed for such proliferation of bear population in the Churchill area this season. An Arctic fox out by the coast was a welcome surprise as well as a flock or two of Willow Ptarmigan weaving in and out of, that’s right, willows along the way. The magical moment, albeit fleeting, came at the very outset of the day when the group glimpsed a Black wolf by the “highway” near the propane tanks by the airport. This elusive creature has been spotted once by myself when I was guiding a Summer group – he was loping over the road just before the weir. Majestic like the anti-ghost.

Travelers in Guide Brad’s group were witness today to unending sparring around the Tundra Lodge as big males grew increasingly impatient. Faint blood stains are noticed on their yellowish fur these days as the mock fighting intensifies. Rarely do bears maim each other during this seasonal ritual but this year we have certainly seen more bloodshed and crooked, scarred noses than past seasons. Lack of ice has the Polar Bears anxious and somewhat more ill- tempered. The group also enjoyed the pleasure of an Arctic fox joining them for a good 20 minutes while camped at Bird Cove. Later on, these folks also spent a good amount of time at the “nursery” in the Gordon Point vicinity where a plethora of mothers with cubs congregate these days. With the onset of a true Northern winter imminent, the tundra, bathed in a reddish glow over combined with snow’s bright white seemed to accept its fate once again as another spectacular day of wildlife viewing came to a close.

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