Tag Archive: Classic Canadian Tours


2015 was another great polar bear season up in Churchill, Manitoba with Bill Lamberton and Les Stegenga from Classic Canadian Tours! The bears were plentiful, playful and best of all, there were lots of mothers with cubs. Almost all of the bears were in good to great condition, including one massive male that dwarfed the others. Scroll down to see and read just a few of the highlights.

A large male bear comes in close for an amazing, up-close experience. It’s no wonder why they have the title, “Lords of the Arctic.” Their huge roman noses give them a very distinguished look, but more importantly it’s used to detect seals 30km away and through several meters of snow.

Polar Bear Head BW WM

A mother and her 10 month old cub walk along the frozen shore of the Hudson Bay. Cubs are typically born in January and will stay with their mothers for 2-3 years, gaining weight and learning the ropes of surviving in such a harsh environment.   In an average day we typically saw 3-4 mothers with 1-2 cubs each; a sign that the past few years have been good for the bears.

PB mom and cub walking WM

When the ice on the Hudson Bay melts in July, the bears are forced onto shore and will go 3-4 months without a substantial meal. On average a polar bear will lose 2lbs of fat every day it’s on land and not eating. Couple that with the fact they they use 13 times more energy when they are moving and you can understand why they spend the majority of their summer and fall resting.

Chilling in Churchill WM

As winter nears they start strolling the shores for any snacks that wash up with the large tides.Polar Bear Warrior WM

When the tours start in late October and early November, the weather is getting colder and the snow starts flying. The bears know it’s only a few more weeks until they can get back out onto the ice. It’s also cold enough that they don’t overheat as quickly so they spend more time playing and sparring with each other. This particular male is the largest bear we saw this year and probably weighed around 1200lbs!

Pouncing polar bear C WM

With the return of the cold, northerly winds, winter starts to take hold. This mother and cub huddled together to stay warm during one of the early winter storms.

Polar Snuggle WM

Fresh water coming from the neighbouring rivers, coupled with the NW winds and counter-clockwise ocean current means that ice forms quickly here and gets pushed up against the shores around Churchill before other areas of the bay. The bears have learned this and migrate long distances to get to Churchill in time for the early freeze-up, hence why Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the world. This large male was strolling along the recently formed ice, sniffing for seals.

Polar bear ice hudson bay WM

Only over a very short, 4 week period do we get such a great opportunity to see so many of these magnificent animals. This week, large sheets of ice have formed around Churchill and the bears are heading out to sea. Here’s hoping it’s another good year for them out on the ice.

Is seeing polar bears roaming the tundra on your bucket list? If so and you’re near Calgary, Edmonton or Saskatoon next October or November, check out the polar bear safaris offered through Classic Canadian Tours. Guests consistently rate these trips as excellent and it really is an experience of a lifetime. But don’t just take my word for it…click here to read their reviews.

With that, I’ll leave you with one last photo to cap off the season.

PB sitting BW WM

 

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On Sunday I had the privileged of being a guest naturalist with Classic Canadian Tours on a one day Polar Bear Safari out of Edmonton. We had a wonderful day with over 20 bears spotted, including several mothers with cubs.

If you can only spare a day away from home over a weekend in October or November, I highly recommend these tours. The chartered flight from either Calgary, Edmonton or Saskatoon will take you directly to Churchill and have you out on the tundra viewing polar bears by mid-morning until dusk!  All meals are covered and there is even enough time to head into the town of Churchill to pick up a few souvenirs before heading home.

Below are just a few photos (click on each one for a larger view) from our trip on November 9th as well as more details about the bears and the trip itself. Enjoy and feel free to leave comments.

Polar bear play fighting B&W WMPolar bear sparring is a cold weather event. Only when temperatures get to around -10 degrees Celsius do the bears get frisky. Any warmer than that and they are too hot to play. Yes, you read that right! Polar bears are so well insulated against the cold that they only get active when the temperature dips to levels that would easily kill many other mammals. The above photo is of a mother (left) and her two year old cub that took a break from napping to spar during a winter snowstorm in Churchill, Manitoba.

Frozen bear hair WMWith blowing snow starting to cover this bear, it hunkered down for a snooze. Polar bears are so well insulated that any snow that falls on their coat doesn’t melt  and provides another layer of insulation against the cold. Having not eaten a meal since July, the bears spend most of their time conserving energy while they wait for the sea ice to form. The late afternoon light, the snow crusted fur and the blowing snow over the paws of this bear made for an interesting photo

Polar bear paw and stare WMUp close and personal, this bear came to investigate our tundra buggy and provides a great example of just how big their feet are! Polar bears are great swimmers with these big feet and can easily outswim Olympic athletes. The longest swim ever recorded for a polar bear was 687km over 9 days straight!  The female bear lost 22% over her body weight during that time.

Polar bear smile WMPolar bears have an amazing sense of smell which is needed to find seals under ice and scattered over large stretches of the arctic. This bear was catching our scent as it passed next to our buddy.

Polar bears and tundra landscape WMTo cap off our wonderful day, these two bears started heading out towards Hudson Bay as another storm on the horizon moved in on us. Hard to believe you can wake up and see polar bears all day long and be back home in the comfort of your own bed the same night!

If you would love to have an experience like this, check out Classic Canadian Tours website to get more details about this amazing safari and similar trips to see grizzly bears and beluga whales in other remote locations throughout Canada.

Wondering what the bears are up to right now?  Click on this link to watch live coverage from Churchill as the Tundra Buggy Cam gives you live streaming videos of the bears before they head out onto the ice to start hunting.

 

Polar bear blizzard WM

Over the past two weekends I have been a naturalist for Classic Canadian Tours, which provides polar bear safari day trips out of Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon to Churchill, Manitoba. Many people who would otherwise never have the opportunity to see these magnificent animals in the wild are able to make this trip and come away with a once in a lifetime experience.

This time every year, tour companies are in full swing as the bears congregate around the Hudson Bay. Due to the influx of fresh water and bay currents, the water in the Churchill area is the first to freeze each year. Over a 2-3 week period between late October and mid-November the bears return to this area to sit on the tundra and wait for the ice to form. Once frozen, the bears have direct access to cross the bay and continue to their winter hunting grounds. This brief window creates a perfect viewing opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts and we were lucky to see several bears including this one as she made her way along the tundra during a snowstorm.

One of my favourite moments from these trips was at the end of the day when we were back in Calgary. An elderly man who had made the trip strolled up to me and we chatted while he waited for his family members. As we shook hands and talked about the great trip, he stated that he only took a brief nap on the morning flight out but was otherwise feeling great even after being up for 16 hours! The adrenalin rush of seeing polar bears was easy to appreciate! As he left he proudly stated he was 87 years old and that he hoped I would be able to do such a trip at his age! I couldn’t have agreed more!