World’s largest land carnivore gets right of way as fall polar bear season begins

November 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Big Churchill polar bear at Seal River on Hudson Bay

World's largest land carnivore has right of way here

by Andy MacPherson

The start of a new fall polar bear season!

The Turbo Beaver being busy down south, our first group of guests arrived in style in a helicopter, landing right at our front door. After settling into their rooms and taking in a brief safety orientation, we had them out viewing polar bears Churchill Wild style before lunch.

There were three bears in the immediate vicinity and all were accommodating. We were able to get close and view all three without disturbing them from their day beds. At this time of year the polar bears are focused on conserving as much energy as possible in anticipation of freeze up and the availability of their favourite meal, ringed seals, which will help them replenish their waning fat reserves.

On our way back to the lodge for lunch we discovered that the first bear we’d stopped to view earlier had ambled into the bay north of us. He was now comfortably bedded down in a bed of kelp lying on his back; stretching and playing with a piece of kelp, pulling it gently threw his teeth as if he were flossing.

After lunch we hiked out towards the west, to Swan Lake and back. We were met by a subadult bear on our way back, walking towards us up the path. He stopped when we asked him to, looking a little confused as to why we were blocking ‘His’ way.  We moved off to one side, giving him the right of way – a smart thing to do when questioned by a polar bear. He passed by at a safe distance as our hearts pounded, pausing to get a good scent of us and posing for a few great photos along the way.

We are often approached by polar bears while we are out on hikes and away from the safety and comfort of the lodge. These are always exciting moments, and important times to be very observant of bear behaviour. Every bear that approaches us acts differently based on life experiences past and present. Negative or positive, these experiences will influence the way a bear reacts to us. This initial communication will determine our response to each approaching bear. While polar bears aren’t usually vocal, they do communicate very well through subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) body language and behaviour.

We watched the bear as he moved away from us and continued down the path towards Swan Lake, our excitement at his approach subsiding slightly as we moved back on to the path. Some of the guests asked where the bear was going and what he was thinking; how old he was and how much he weighed. Others marveled at what had just happened.

The largest land carnivore on the planet, a Churchill polar bear, had just walked by us and gone about his business, whatever that might be. It just wasn’t us…

at the moment.

Close Encounters with Polar Bears

August 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Polar Bear Tours

Angela Saurine was at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge last summer and wrote for media outlets in Australia about her adventure.

It wasn’t until around lunchtime that we spotted our first polar bear wandering along the tidal flats in the distance its muddy brown feet making a stark contrast to its pure white body.

Another is swimming in the bay and a couple of others can be seen on the horizon. We decide to drive closer and stop for lunch.

“If we stay in one place for a while,” our native guide, Butch, says, “the bears will get used to us and come to us.”

To read the full story, click here.

Angela also posted a video to the News.com.au website. It can be found here.

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind – Churchill Wild Makes Dreams Come True

November 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

A Polar Bear Checks out What is Going On in the Kitchen

A Polar Bear Peeks in Through The Bars

After visiting Clyde River and then Pond Inlet further north on Baffin Island back in 2005 and 2007, hoping to see Polar Bears in the wild and being disappointed in not seeing any there, we finally tried at Churchill Wild in Northern Manitoba in October of 2009.

Not knowing whether it was going to be third time lucky or not for us this time round, our trip actually turned out to be everything that we expected and more. We got to see Polar Bears at last! Lots of them, up close and personal, and on one occasion, even one large male pushing his nose through the bars across the open window of the hallway near the kitchen in the lodge.

His breath blowing into my face – which was only about two feet away from his – while I thanked my lucky stars (afterwards that is) that I had my camcorder rolling at the moment I stood in stunned silence before this ice giant. Shivers ran down my spine, tingling in excitement at this close encounter I never dreamed would happen to me.

You just cannot get better, or closer, than that! Fantastic experiences, thank you Churchill Wild for being in existence and for making my dreams finally come true.

Mike and Julie Trayhum 2009                  

Up Close and Personal with the Polar Bears – Churchill Wild lets you meet them Face to Face

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Lodge Recipes, Polar Bear Tours

Every day at Seal River Lodge brings something new, but two factors always remain the same. One is the food. Two is the Great Ice Bear.
Guide Andy has a friendly chat with a new arrival

Guide Andy has a friendly chat with a new arrival

You never go hungry, and every day brings a new culinary delight. Whether it’s a hearty soup to warm you up after the morning hike and photo shoot with two playful polar bears, or fresh artisan bread coming out of the oven only minutes before it is served at your table – it’s always special.

The Great Ice Bear, also referred to as Nanuk, the local Inuit name for polar bear, are the main reason people visit the lodge. These great white bears of the North are constantly around the lodge, and because this is the only place on the Hudson Bay that you can literally “walk” with the polar bears, guests have the opportunity to meet them face to face.

For example, last week one of our guides had the chance to “talk” with one of the young polar bears who seemed to be interested in what Andy had to say. A little while later he cautiously approached the fence. All that could be heard was the sound of camera shutters, as guests took picture after picture. Inside the lodge you could hear lodge owner Mike Reimer singing what always seems to be his motto at this time of year.

“Bears to the left of me, bears to the right, here I am… stuck in the middle with Bears.”

What's for lunch? Shaggy Bread?

What's for lunch? Shaggy Bread?

Interested in trying some of our Artisan Bread for yourself?  Here is Helen Webber’s recipe for what she calls Shaggy Bread.

“I have tried a number of recipes for Ciabatta breads,” says Helen, “And all of them have been delicious, but none have been this EASY and delicious!”

Shaggy Bread (Ciabatta Bread Recipe)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Warm Water
  • 1 ¼ Tbsp. Sea Salt, Kosher Salt or 1 Tbsp. Table Salt
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. Yeast, instant or regular
  • 6 cups Flour – Unbleached or All Purpose – I often substitute 1 cup of some type of whole grain flour for a total of 6 cups

Preparation Instructions

  1. Mix the water, salt and yeast, stirring to dissolve in a 16-cup container preferably with a lid.  I use a gallon ice cream pail.
  2. Add the six cups of flour and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is moistened.  It should look like shaggy dough when you’re done.  It will not be a smooth like regular bread dough and it will be quite sticky.
  3. Cover with lid (don’t put it on tightly) or plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for two hours. Then refrigerate until ready to bake.
  4. Cut off about a third of the dough and shape into a ball on a well floured counter.  Place on a baking sheet that has been well sprinkled with cornmeal.  The whole sheet doesn’t have to be covered with cornmeal, just an area a little larger than the dough ball.  Be sure the top is well covered with flour.
  5. Let rise for 40 to 50 minutes on the counter. Slice the top two or three times.
  6. Begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees about 20 minutes before it is time to bake the bread. Place a broiler pan on the floor of a gas oven, or on the bottom rack of an electric oven.
  7. When the oven is hot, place the bread on the rack above the pan and then immediately throw a cup of hot water into the pan. Close the oven quickly. Bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the oven to 400 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
  8. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

This bread dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It just gets to be more of a sourdough as it ages. There is no need to wash the container between batches. It can also be doubled if you have a big enough container. A little wetter dough will give a different but still delicious result, as will slightly heavier dough.

Experiment and have fun!

Polar bear joins guests for lunch at mouth of Seal River

September 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Have you ever had a polar bear join you for lunch? We have – on a regular basis. They also come for breakfast and dinner. At Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge both the guests and the polar bears come for the food.

At some point during your stay it is quite common to have a bear join you for a meal. The bears just always seem to know when meal time is at the lodge. They show up and walk by the window in the dining room as the guests are sitting down to eat. They then always seem to wander off to the far side of the lodge, taking the guests out of the dining room with cameras in hand to chase them from window to window.
But what happens when a Great White Bear decides to join you for your picnic lunch?  We had that happen one week when the guests were out on a 6-wheeler trip at the mouth of the Seal River. Luckily the guests had already eaten, and had left the 6-wheelers for a bit of a hike.
When they returned a couple hours later, they witnessed a young polar bear munching down on their leftover caribou sandwiches and chicken noodle soup. As you can tell from the photo, the cooler was ripped apart, and later became a tool bin in the garage. The soup container had some new scratches on it, and the latch was broken, but it was quickly replaced the next day.
Our two guides did an excellent job of chasing the bear away, but not before the guests got a few shots in with their cameras. Once the bear was gone, a quick clean up was done, and everyone returned to the lodge, happy that the polar bear hadn’t come along before they ate lunch.
What kind of warranty does Coleman have on their coolers?
Polar bear eats Caribou sandwiches and chicken soup for lu

Polar bear eats Caribou sandwiches and chicken soup for lunch at Seal River

Have you ever had a polar bear join you for lunch? We have – on a regular basis. They also come for breakfast and dinner. At Churchill Wild’s Seal River Lodge both the guests and the polar bears come for the food.

At some point during your stay it is quite common to have a bear join you for a meal. The bears just always seem to know when meal time is at the lodge. They show up and walk by the window in the dining room as the guests are sitting down to eat. They then always seem to wander off to the far side of the lodge, taking the guests out of the dining room with cameras in hand to chase them from window to window.

But what happens when a Great Ice Bear decides to join you for your picnic lunch?  We had that happen one week when the guests were out on a 6-wheeler trip at the mouth of the Seal River. Luckily the guests had already eaten, and had left the 6-wheelers for a bit of a hike.

When they returned a couple hours later, they witnessed a young polar bear munching down on their leftover Caribou sandwiches and chicken noodle soup. As you can tell from the photo, the cooler was ripped apart, and later became a tool bin in the garage. The soup container had some new scratches on it, and the latch was broken, but it was quickly replaced the next day.

What the polar bear left for the cleaning staff

What the polar bear left for the cleaning staff

Our two guides did an excellent job of chasing the bear away, but not before the guests got a few shots in with their cameras. Once the bear was gone, a quick clean up was done, and everyone returned to the lodge, happy that the polar bear hadn’t come along before they ate lunch.

What kind of warranty does Coleman have on their coolers?

Polar Bear tries to make off with D6 Cat at Seal River Lodge on Hudson Bay

August 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

Polar Bear decides to be cat driver on Hudson Bay

Polar Bear decides to be cat driver on Hudson Bay

In late March and early April we spend two weeks working between Churchill, Dymond Lake Lodge and Seal River Lodge. A typical day during these two weeks generally begins at 5 a.m. and goes until about 10:30 p.m.

What are we doing in below zero temperatures? On the frozen Hudson Bay? With the occasional white out thrown at us just for fun?

We are the Cat Train crew.

Those of you who have spent time with us at Seal River Lodge have probably seen the photos of the D6 Caterpillar hauling freight over the sea ice during the winter for various projects that are planned in advance for the summer. We also spend what seems like endless days cutting and hauling fire wood to both Seal River Lodge and Dymond Lake Lodge.

D6 Cat towing 40,000 pounds on Hudson Bay

D6 Cat towing 40,000 pounds on Hudson Bay

We would like to introduce you to the newest member of our crew. He was a little eager and showed up about eight months early, but seems to be ready to go. This nice white bear decided he would try and take our Cat out for a spin, and a couple of our guests were lucky enough to snap a few shots before he noticed them.

For those of you who have not joined us at the Lodge I have also included a couple shots of the real cat train departing Churchill, Manitoba on its two-day trip, hauling almost 40,000 pounds en route to Seal River Lodge.

Cat train arrives at Seal River Lodge

Cat train arrives at Seal River Lodge


Polar Bear cries Wolf on Tundra

June 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Polar Bear Tours

polar-bear-and-wolf-playing-500

What a Day!

Woke up at 6:30 a.m. and was watching a wolf playing with/teasing a bear out by the airstrip. The wolf would get in close to nip and the bear would charge after her, the wolf always staying just out of its reach, literally one step ahead.  Awesome sight!

After 30 minutes the bear just laid down and completely ignored the wolf.  She would nip at him along his hind quarters and he would just lay there bored, so she moved on and started harassing a second bear slightly closer to the lodge in our bear waiting area – incredible behavior to watch. This time the wolf, seems a little more serious about its attempts at bothering the bear. Through the spotting scope you could easily see she was showing her teeth and acting in a much more aggressive manner with this bear.  Food being the sticky point maybe. This went on for a short period of time before the wolf gave up hope. Before the wolf  left, she took some time to mark a number of trees in the area, then moved off to the west towards Swan Lake.  All this action before breakfast!

Out on the Bay at 8:15, great morning, super calm and loads of Beluga about. The whales were very curious again today, following us closely the whole time we were in the river mouth. They were very vocal and once the Hydrophone was in the water the whale song was all around us.. Vocal enough in some instances to not even need the Hydrophone. At the end, after everyone who wanted in the water had gone in, we sat and drifted with the tide and wind as the Belugas came and circled us, turning on their sides to peer up at us, as curious about us as we were about them. We drifted offshore a ways into much clearer and deeper water. Under and around us, huge males were swimming just beneath the surface. What was going through their minds? Spectacular!

Back for lunch, then a short rest to digest. Dave put out a great spread! When everyone was ready we headed out towards the north. I had spotted two bears bedded down in that direction earlier. We hiked out to see what we could find.

We decided to stalk the bear furthest away from us, but the wind was wrong on our approach. He scented us and decided to move off as we came in sight of him. He moved into some brush at the base of the next point to
the north. It seemed he didn’t want to be viewed so we decided not to chase him any further.

But we were now in a perfect position to stalk the closer of the two bears near the lodge. Walking back into the wind, we managed to get in closer to him, within 50 metres. We set ourselves and everyone managed to get some great photos. The bear eventually looked up, saw us and moved away onto the tidal flats where he laid down in a position to keep an eye on us.

We then found a third bear we hadn’t noticed before out towards a kill sight from the previous week (beluga whale washed up on shore.) We approached him cautiously, staying quite a distance away, watching. He knew we were there, but didn’t move. We decided we’d leave him laying there, he might have been a little more protective of that particular area.

It was such an awesome day I almost forgot about my own personal close encounter in the morning! I was out working, dropping my Zodiac in the water and looked up towards the lodge, hmm… a bear was standing watching me work about 30 metres away! Mike and Ryley as well, with big grins on their faces. Nobody had said a word to me. Guests were standing in the dining room window snapping shots – a few good ones as well! We tossed some rocks and yelled at the bear and he moved away – but not before providing me with another lesson.  Never get too engrossed in my work to look around – you never know what’s watching you!

Curious bears… another excellent day! What will tomorrow morning bring?