Things settle into a bit of hibernation mode up here once the bears and tourists leave. There is enough sea ice on the bay now to make for crystal clear days and pastel sunrises and, of course, the itchy dry skin that comes with winter.
It is minus thirty today, the woodstove and coffee are just roiling to life. The cabin is ‘almost’ clean for the first time in forty days. The ‘lake’ road, our winter access, has been dragged and ‘groomed’ about as well as we can. We salvaged some scrap metal and chain for our road-making equipment this year, seems to be working pretty well. Of course, we also scavenged a freighter canoe but that doesn’t have much to do with our road.
The end of bear season marks kind of a mini-fox season. Arctic foxes and red foxes still abound up here, even if trapping season began almost ten days ago. They are most commonly found around the Port of Churchill right now, holding out in the hopes of a few more shared lunches and mice.
Folks are slowly trickling out of town. Bear season workers are, for the most part, heading back south while others opt to experience the winter up here, slowly getting addicted to Churchill’s freedom – for better or worse. Port workers are slowly being laid off, some of them head back south, some to Mexico and yet others to the trap line. Restaurants are gradually closing, soon only a couple will be left for coffee and breakfast gossip.
The bears are still around, occasionally seen as a blip through binoculars or a spotting scope. They have more important things to do right now, there are seals out there. Of course, a polar bear did show up behind the Town Centre Complex a couple days ago, wandering off the ice. He was pushed back on the ice by Conservation officers, one last call for the season. The polar bear jail is almost empty, two bears are waiting for ear tags but they should be released any day now.
This was a pretty crazy bear season, one of the most dramatic and eventful I can remember. Over this past week, a group of Churchill polar bear guides have formed the Churchill Polar Bear Advisory Council with the intent of communicating Churchill’s polar bear knowledge and helping to shape policy. Together this group has around ’200 years’ of combined polar bear experience so its pretty nice to see these guys finally get together and share Churchill’s view of bears. Manitoba Conservation has committed to review the Polar Bear Alert program and hopefully all of this results in positive moves for all sides.
And finally, the Polar Bear Marathon had another successful running. Participants were scattered along the road last Friday, each with a vehicle escort even if no bears were left to greet them this year. It was pretty much our first day of severe cold, so its a pretty impressive and crazy accomplishment when you think about it.
That’s about it – back to sorting through this year’s library cast-off books and cutting firewood.
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