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Chilling With Polar Bears in the Canadian Arctic

Need to cool off? Check out our primer on the Canadian Arctic and its stars - the polar bears

by Caitlin Hotchkiss Posted on 18 June 2013

Here in Canada, we’ve finally broken through the months of snow and ice and freezing wind. Summer at last! But if you need to mentally lower the temperature once the mercury starts rising, we’ve got just the solution – awesome photos of the Canadian Arctic, including some of the, ahem, coolest members of the bear family: polar bears!

First, your polar bear primer (thanks to Dave, our Regional Operations Manager for North America, for this quick education). We’re going to focus on the town of Churchill in Manitoba, because not only is it known as “the polar bear capital of the world,” but we also happen to offer a fun little trip there, should you want to go spot some bears for yourself! (And trust me, you do. Just don’t get too close. Trust me on that, too.)

The polar bears are especially high in number in Churchill because they’re waiting to get back out on the ice to hunt ring seals for the winter. They can smell a seal – especially a recently killed one – up to 30 miles away, which is a big help when you’re a polar bear that needs to restore its fat reserves. As the ice on Hudson Bay begins to melt, they find their way back to the mainland of Nunavut and Ontario in time for the beginning of summer.

Without delicious seals to gorge on, the bears go into a “walking hibernation” of sorts, where they move very slowly and sleep a lot. They live off their accumulated fat for the summer season, and when October and November roll around, the bay begins to freeze over and the bears start to get restless. That’s when they migrate towards Churchill – because the Churchill River comes into the bay, bringing in cold water that makes the bay freeze, thus making this the first place where the hungry bears can get back on the ice. Mmmmm, seals.

Let’s take a look at the Canadian Arctic landscape while we’re at it – check out this Inuksuk, located at the edge of Hudson Bay and near the mouth of the Churchill River:


People think that inuksuk may have been used for such things as marking trails and herding caribou. Inuksuk are also featured on the flag of Nunavut, Canada’s newest territory.

Here’s how it looks on Hudson Bay when the sun sets – note the greyish “seal ice” forming along the bottom of the photo. According to Dave, it only takes 3-4 days and the bay will freeze up, giving the polar bears a pathway to their seal buffet.


Finally, here are the stars of the show: Whether taking a snooze on the ice...


Curiously following our Tundra Buggy...


Or just stopping in to say hi...


These majestic creatures are definitely something to see. (And if you embark on that Churchill adventure I mentioned earlier, we’ll make sure you stay safe and sound in a Tundra Buggy while bear-spotting)

Ready to get a different view of winter? Head up north to the Canadian Arctic to check out the wildlife, the communities, and the awesome landscapes for yourself. There’s no better way to cool off.

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures in the Arctic encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.