We have some friends up for a couple days so this was the first real day of ‘bear cruising’. I was a little apprehensive as things are still pretty quiet right now. East winds will do that.
But, our first stop at Ithaca Cove (the place with the shipwreck) turned out pretty well. A lazy male bear walked along the point and settled down for a nap and a stretch in the willows. Two of buggies were there watching him and my little big van couldn’t get through their mud puddle so we dusted off the gun and walked over to watch the bear.
This all sounds more dramatic than it is, at least I think… It was a warm day and by the time we had gathered everything up from the train and drove out to look for bears, it was nearing 11am – right around nap time for bears. Still being on the ground with bears is kind of cool and I was encouraged to retreat to the van once the bear woke up. I tried to explain that it was a male bear and no male anywhere wakes up on the first try but it was a losing battle.
After a snowy owl at Bird Cove and the scrap metal tour of Churchill (Ithaca, Miss Piggy), we noticed a helicopter flying a sling along the coast. At this time of year, it seems a bit early to be moving bears so I figured it was cargo destined for Seal River Lodge or maybe Wapusk National Park.
Still, any time you see vehicles parked or a helicopter anywhere near the polar bear jail, its smart to stick around and see what happens. Today, it turns out that the helicopter arrived a bit too early at the jail and Polar Bear Alert officers had not yet arrived, there was only a confused Animal Planet film crew.
Once officers arrived, the helicopter hovered and gently lowered the bear to the ground. Officers scurried around, readying the ATV and trailer, unlocking the net and rolling the bear on to his stomach. They did this last one with some difficulty as he looked like a big old bear, I would say around 10′ from nose to tail from what I could see.
Soon, they hustled him in to the jail, checking his tattoo once inside and noting his capture information into his ‘x-file’. Each polar bear captured in Canada has a number starting with ‘X’ and a life record of their activity is logged. Can’t deny that I would really like to take a sneak peak at the x-files one of these years but they are kept pretty locked down for some reason.
Still, the whole thing seemed a little strange. Through the day, we saw four bears along the coast, none of which were really moving let alone getting into mischief. This guy must have been a new arrival to town, I’ll try to find out tomorrow…
During the whole bear drop, we took pictures, Animal Planet filmed and some Japanese photographers snapped away in a motley little group that rotated along the rope barrier. Animal Planet borrowed my binoculars for some shots and we started chatting. It turned out that they were doing a piece about a Winnipeg polar bear artist. Her name is Cal… something, hmm. Another thing to find out today…
Anyway, given that there is kind of a dearth of polar bear artists in the world, it was pretty neat to run into another one. We made arrangements with the film crew to do some painting tomorrow so we’ll see what happens…! You never know who you run into in Churchill…