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Post Travels: Summer in the Polar Bear Capital of the World

Published: April 26, 2018

Churchill, Manitoba is a small place. One gas station, one supermarket, and though there a handful of stop signs, you won’t find a traffic light. Polar bears outnumber the 900 or so people that call this accessible stretch of the Arctic home, and every summer, thousands of beluga whales flood into Hudson Bay. Mother Nature runs the show in Churchill, but those who visit often find themselves with a front row seat to a place like nowhere else in the world. (All photos courtesy of Dana Rebmann.)

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Although sightings are not as common during summer, it’s always polar bear season in Churchill.

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Guards on polar bear lookout at Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. It’s amazing how many good hiding places there are in Churchill, even for big, furry bears.

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Churchill boasts what’s said to be the only polar bear jail in the world. It can hold 28 bears — more if mothers brought their cubs to town.

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There are many stories surrounding its fate, but a look at the shipwrecked MV Ithaca is a scenic stop in between bear spotting activities.

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Most visitors come to see the polar bears, but beluga whales know how to steal the show. And it’s not unheard of for whale watching tours to spot bears wandering along the shoreline.

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Tundra Buggy all-terrain vehicles roam the trail network in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The back deck, or “patio” can be used anytime the Tundra Buggy is stopped to get a better look at wildlife that can include likes of polar bears, bald eagles, and caribou, just to name a few. Half school bus, half monster truck, vehicles are equipped with a bathroom.

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Trying to take an afternoon nap, every now and then this polar bear would poke his head out of the bushes. Although the big, white Tundra Buggy was surely tough to miss, it was almost as if he was reminding us that he knew we were there.

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Never wander out alone, but don’t miss the opportunity to see a summer sunset in Churchill.

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  • I couldn’t agree more Bob. My experience reflected a great respect for both polar bears and beluga whales, with a strong desire to educate visitors about their lives and turf. Churchill is a beautiful place. I hope you get the opportunity to visit one day.

  • Interesting article, Dana. I just hope people aren’t encroaching too much on these polar bears. This is their turf, and Tundra Buggys should be kept to a minimum. They’re wonderful, but still wild animals and must be respected as such. Human noise pollution is something most animals hate, for good reason!

    Churchill otherwise looks like a beautiful place to visit. It’s in one of the provinces I’ve never been to, and need to get up there.