Well, my guests and film crew are gone for the season and so, seemingly are the bears. I did hear that there was one at Cape Merry today and one in town last night, could still a week or so of a few bears coming and going from the ice by Eskimo Point.
Anyway, the season is over for me and I have a bit of the bear season blahs tonight. After such a short and intense period of time with polar bears and politics, the come-down can be a bit exhausting. Some recent posts on polar bear alley by a false facebook ID named Willie Stroker and a surreptitious email by Junior to an old friend did cause me to think about a few final things though.
This is a blog and I write what I am thinking for the day, sometimes positve and sometimes critical, rarely with a social filter (I’ve heard of these, though). This year, I have been a bit harsh on Manitoba Conservation and maybe it was all just part of ‘bear season’ or maybe not. So, instead of getting bogged down in arguments and politics, I will just offer my suggestions for how we all might make ‘bear season’ a little better for the bears and for Churchill residents.
Here are my suggestions, for what it’s worth.
Public Safety and Polar Bears
- Establish remote cameras in the rocks on the bay side of Churchill. The coast can then be monitored remotely for bear activity as opposed to relying on officers walking in the rocks at significant personal risk while reducing the risk of bears unexpectedly entering town.
Explore.org and Polar Bears International could potentially assist in the funding and set up of this security system. The coast could be monitored from the Manitoba Conservation office and possibly by Polar Bears International volunteers throughout the day and, with the use of infra-red cameras, at night.
- Family units (mothers and cubs) should not be hazed with non-lethal deterrents (cracker shells) unless public risk makes it absolutely necessary. Many bears prefer to travel through town along the coast and Town Complex beach without entering the community. If deterrents are determined to be necessary, their use should be kept to a minimum, preferably to reduce the stress and energy expenditure of the family unit.
Once a family unit has been spotted near the community, Polar Bears International and local volunteers could be stationed along the perimeter of the community to observe the movements of the female with cubs until tide and weather conditions make it suitable to relocate them across the Churchill River. This could assist Manitoba Conservation with maintaining public safety while freeing them up to continue their regular patrol.
Tundra Vehicle Permits
- Recently, Manitoba Conservation issued a land-use permit for two Tundra Vehicles in the area including Ithaca Point, Bird Cove and Halfway Point. I do not feel that this relatively pristine area can support tundra vehicle tours but I also do not feel that the Lazy Bear Lodge should now be punished because they put in the effort to get these permits.
By issuing these permits, Manitoba Conservation has clearly indicated that two additional permits will not stress the current polar bear population, plus the 18 permits allowed in the WMA are rarely maximized on any given day in bear season.
Therefore, these new permits should be relocated to the traditional Tundra Vehicle trails designated in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area aka ‘buggyland’ to both minimize ecological disturbance and ensure peak access to polar bears for visiting tourists.
Management Plan for Canadian Eskimo Dog Kennel (Mile 5)
- Brian Ladoon has expressed a willingness to revise the current management plan with Manitoba Conservation. A new co-operative management plan, clearly communicated to both the community and the general public, is required. This should include:
• Free access for Churchill residents at designated viewing times
• Public safety and clearly communicated rules for bear watching
• Protocols for visiting film crews and photographers
• A long-term plan for the Canadian Eskimo Dog
Generally, there is little support among Churchill residents, as well as visiting tourists, for the current practice of removing polar bears in early November from this area without explanation. A clear statement of the reasoning behind these actions is requested.
Community Access to Bear Viewing
- I would ask the Province of Manitoba to restore the built-up road areas at Ithaca point and Bird Cove and prohibit large-scale Tundra Vehicle usage west of the Great White Bear Tours maintenance facility. This should include:
• Culverts at creek crossings on Ithaca Point (two) and Bird Cove (one)
• General road repair and the removal of designated willows.
• Environmental restoration of the beach areas at Ithaca cove and Bird cove
- The grain piles at the old dump site should either be removed next summer or if they remain, supervised by Manitoba Conservation officers during the times that bears are present. Regardless, the current practice of closing that traditional bear viewing area is disappointing and I would like to see access restored.
Visiting Film Crew and Documentary Footage
- Stock footage of a polar bear lift, removal of a polar bear trap, non-lethal deterrence and the Polar Bear Alert patrol should be available through the Manitoba Conservation office in Churchill. This will reduce the need for visiting film crews to interfere with officers during ‘bear season’ and will ensure that bears are removed from the Polar Bear Holding Facility in a timely manner.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. I am officially retired from film crews as of now and will just stick to looking at bears from now on. I think these changes would be good for the community and for bears. Maybe I will do a petition, maybe I will say forget it, maybe I’ll just watch a movie right now and let someone else run with this one. Hard to say.