Churchill Manitoba is the Polar Bear Capital of the World – bears have been know to migrate right up the main street

Street Sign Polar Bear

Street Sign Warning of Polar Bears © Lucy Izon

Churchill, Manitoba – Churchill is quite justified is using the moniker ‘The Polar Bear Capital of the World.’ The town is right on the migration route of the bears who like to come into shore during the warm summer months, and then head back out onto the ice flows of Hudson’s Bay to feed on seals over the winter.

Around the month of October as many as 100 will migrate near town, occasionally one will walk right up the main street. There’s even a Polar Bear Jail where unwanted guests are accommodated until the ice on Hudson’s Bay is solid enough for them to continue their journey.

It’s the kind of community where local etiquette has residents leaving their home and car doors unlocked, in case someone has an unexpected close encounter and needs to duck in for safety. Where other Canadians call 911 for an emergency, in Churchill the important number is the ‘Polar Bear Hotline’ for any sightings within town.

Airport Churchill

No roads reach Churchill. Train (2 days) or plane from Winnipeg (2 hours) are your choices to reach this community during polar bear season.

Within an hour of our arrival in Churchill we found fresh polar bear tracks just miles from the airport.

Within an hour of our arrival in Churchill we found fresh polar bear tracks just miles from the airport

 

Polar Bear & Cubs on way from airport

Before we even reached town from the airport we spotted a mother bear nursing her cub

Polar Bear Trap

Problem bears caught hanging out around town are trapped and brought to the holding facility, out near the

 

Polar Bear Jail

Churchill has what is know as ‘Polar Bear Jail’. Bears caught too close to town are held here until the ice freezes on Hudson Bay. Then they are helicoptered out to the ice.

Polar Bear Jail Listening

Contact with humans is kept to a minimum, but sometimes at polar bear jail you can hear them inside.

 

Church Moved

St. Paul’s Anglican Church was the first prefabricated building in North America. It was shipped as a kit from England.

 

Turns out not only do Polar Bears like to dine on ringed seals - they also like snowmobile seats.

Turns out not only do Polar Bears like to dine on ringed seals – they also like snowmobile seats.

 

Paws scrape

Looking out the front window of our tour bus the claw marks of a polar bear are evident on the hood

 

Polar Bear stamp in Passport

If you drop by the local Canada Post office they will add a Polar Bear stamp to your passport

 

Sightings

In the same building as the post office you can Manitoba Conservation’s daily posting of sightings

Pre-Dorset culture lived in the Churchill area and tent rings that would pre-date Cleopatra have been found near the Prince of Wales Fort a the mouth of the Churchill River. The Fort is a National Historic Site.

Pre-Dorset culture lived in the Churchill area and tent rings that would pre-date Cleopatra have been found near the Prince of Wales Fort a the mouth of the Churchill River. The Fort is a National Historic Site.

Rocks Churchill

The town’s Eskimo Museum has an excellent collection of carvings, cultural artifacts, and geological wonders. Under the shoreline in this region is an ancient shoreline that was once located close to the equator.

Churchill Photo © Lucy Izon

Want to know if there’s a bear close to town, keep an eye for circling tourist helicopters. Photo © Lucy Izon

I visited Churchill in October 2011 to view the polar bears close up from a Tundra Buggy on an adventure with Frontiers North. Special giant-wheeled tundra vehicles take tourists out for safe viewing/photography sessions. It was a fabulous experience. The first day on the Tundra Buggy we spotted a dozen of the great white bears, the second day we sighted 15.  Read about the experience and  the Tundra Buggy live webcam.

There are no actual roads to Churchill, so the two ways to travel there from Winnipeg are by air (2 hours) or rail (48 hours.) You could also drive to Thompson, Manitoba and then fly or take an overnight train.

 

Address:

215 Kelsey Boulevard, Churchill, MB, Canada

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