Churchill’s first polar bear marathon is taking place today. Organized by Albert Martens, an extreme runner from Steinbach, Manitoba, the marathon starts behind the Town Centre Complex today. Participants will run along the highway from Churchill to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre and most of the way back. I believe the total distance is 46 kilometres.
Proceeds will raise funds for the Athletes in Action First Nations sports camps in Polar Hill, Paungassi, and Tadoule Lake. Sounds like five Churchill residents will be participating along with the visiting runners. We have seen some of them training this bear season so look for them on the road today!
We all might want to look for some ice while keeping watch for the runners too. What a strange end to the season this has been. The ice packed in early and the cold weather let it ‘set’ long enough that the bears left en masse on November 13th.
Shortly after, the south wind arrive and blew the whole ice pack out, along with the bears. Churchill was pretty quiet for a few days and things looked pretty grim for late season travellers. A few furry holdouts remained at the grain piles and one or two at Ladoon’s and buggyland but even they seemed destined to depart.
Then, after some more north wind, some west wind, some south, some random… there were suddenly bears again. It seems like a mix of bears coming off the ice and a late wave of bears heading for the ice pack. There are definitely some new bears around here, ones that were not really visible earlier this bear season.
For the last few days, there have been sightings ranging from nine to 14 bears out in buggyland and some fresh tracks along the coast. These bears now seem a bit stranded as south winds dominate and the bay is a slurry mix of freezing salt water.
The weather is set to change tomorrow (thankfully after the marathon) and the ice should return and lock in one final time (then again, who knows!). The final bears should head out on the ice around the 22nd-24th, slightly later than last year…! When Manitoba Conservation will decide to empty the jail remains a bit of a mystery, I will try to find out – some of those bears have been in there for close to four weeks now.
So there you go, this should make both my left-wing and my right-leaning readers happy. There was an early freeze and it is not a disastrous year for the bears. Some bears got a head-start yet the freeze-up is strange enough to indicate a change in weather patterns. What it does mean? That is hard to say… the only thing we can really prove is that those little red pixels on the sea ice maps, don’t quite tell the whole story…