Our mobile classroom of educators and communicators, part of Polar Bear International's Leadership Camp, departed Winnipeg early in the morning and made our way to Churchill, Manitoba. Before making our way to the Tundra Buggy Lodge, we toured the small town on Hudson Bay, remote but rife with history and wildlife. We met with a local couple in town, Jim and Betty, aboriginal trappers, now "semi-retired", who shared their way of life of living off the land, trapping for a living, and who spoke of their deep respect for the animals and habitat of Manitoba.
We hit the beach, a cold, windy beach. (Hey, it’s the Arctic.) We toured the Polar Bear Holding Facility, a "detention center" for polar bears that wander too close to town and its inhabitants. It's the only one of its kind in the world, actually, and locals can call a hotline if they spot bears in the vicinity. Normally, townspeople and local authorities try to scare the bears off with loud noise but wildlife officers are called in if that doesn't take. The bears are housed there temporarily and relocated by conservation officers to more remote locations. (They employ a humane mobile trap to bring the bothersome bears out to the facility.)
From there we loaded up the Tundra Buggies, courtesy of Frontiers North Adventure, and made our bumpy way out to the Lodge on the tundra—the Tundra Buggy Lodge—taking in incredible views of unique wildlife along the route. (The trails are former Canadian military roads and the land where the Buggies operate is protected by the Manitoba Conservation Wilderness Area.) The tundra is not covered by snow yet but it afforded great views of arctic foxes, ptamarigans (a northern bird species), arctic swans, snow buntings, common eider ducks, lesser yellowlegs (northern prairie chicken), a bald eagle, short-eared owls, and yes, polar bears.
More on the threat to polar bears tomorrow and below are some images from the day...plus
below is the group blog that can also be found on PBI's site here:
“…when it is this quiet you can feel the wilderness.” Day Two started early with the smile of a waning moon—and will last a lifetime.
Our team of 17 individuals left the Winnipeg airport before sunrise, heading north to Churchill. As the dark pre-dawn sky began to paint the horizon in shades of rose we sat on a propeller plane, flying over a landscape dotted with land that interrupts the rivers and lakes below.
As the plane began to descend and Hudson Bay came in to view, our adventure in the land of the white bear was just beginning. We explored the many aspects of conservation. Guest speakers included trappers where we learned their love and stewardship of the land, as well as Manitoba Conservation officers who shared their responsibility and privilege of assisting man and polar bear living harmoniously.
During our amazing first day in the tundra we saw seven polar bears, an arctic fox, tundra swans, snow geese, willow ptarmigan, snow buntings, short-eared owls and two bald eagles. As we spent the day in awe, we realized the 17 individuals that set out this morning will quickly become one voice for conservation.