After rapidly descending into cabin mode, I reluctantly guided one last tour of the season. I say reluctantly because I have only a couple days left here to wrap up some projects and, well, there is a heck of a lot of ice out there. The prospect of driving people around, no matter how nice they are, without seeing any bears is always a bit daunting.
But, of course, I relented and went out for the day. It was actually, really nice. These folks had just spent time at Seal River Lodge and were pretty savvy world travellers, they also were pretty relaxed about wildlife, knowing that, well, its wildlife and what can you do.
So, we checked all the regular and non-snow drifted spots and killed some time talking about Churchill landmarks and bears in general. With a quick stop at Camp Nanuq, it was a pretty nice morning – and yes, it is nice to be reminded how beautiful the view is from the cabin.
Anyway, just as I was about to give up and off-road it to the old dump to find some bears, we came across a nice little family walking on the sea ice. It must have been a young bear as she was extremely wary, yet sometimes let her cubs trail far behind as she wove her way through the ice.
We tracked her along the back road and beaches, from Miss Piggy towards town. The ice, as the rest of this season, is a bit strange. North winds have pushed some thick ice back in but the shore ice still sways with the tides. She cautiously picked her way through, sometimes breaking through while her cubs waited, always heading into the wind, northwest towards Button Bay.
As she neared town, a lone bear was lying in the jagged ice. Soon, he rose, stretched to intimidate her or possibly just to stretch, and she quickly gathered her little family together. Stopping, thinking, charting out a new path.
Of course, the ice and conditions and other bear left her only one option, to run the gauntlet in the rocks between the bay and the town of Churchill itself. For a time, we seemed to have lost her when suddenly she popped out just by the Town Complex beach. Feeling a bit more secure about the other bear, she pushed her way northwest, following the beach towards Cape Merry.
We followed too, at one point, stopping her from coming ashore by the tank farm, a place where there is not too many options to stay out of trouble. Once back, on the ice, she decided to take a break from her journey. Feeling either over-whelmed or maybe finally feeling secure, she settled into the rocks and began building a ‘nest’ out of seaweed and sand. Soon, she settled in, with her back to the wind and began nursing her two cubs. With a gentle curve in her neck, she variously nuzzled her cubs and gave us, maybe, dirty looks while we watched from a distance.
With the high tide preventing any further progress on the undulating ice, she settled in, out of the wind, and napped until darkness fell. We headed back to town, hoping that she continued her northwest journey out of town that night, un-noticed and undisturbed. While she remained elusive enough that we didn’t get a ton of great shots (email some to me, please!), it was just a nice to spend the day with her family, waiting and watching.