Churchill is one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be observed in the wild. Thousands of visitors from around the world visit each fall for the excitement of seeing these magnificent animals.
Prime viewing times are in October and November, when the bears begin their move from their summer habitat on the tundra back to seal-hunting territory – the pack ice that forms every winter over Hudson Bay. You can also see bears during summer and winter. Find out more about when to go.
There are many different ways to see Churchill’s polar bears. Unique local tundra vehicles, designed to move smoothly over snow and ice, protect passengers from curious or hungry bears. You can also stay at a wilderness lodge (complete with protective fence) built on the bears’ migration route, canoe Seal River, or take guided walks to areas the bears frequent.
About Churchill’s polar bears
Frequently called “Lords of the Arctic”, these spectacular animals are huge. Male polar bears can grow to more than 600 kg (1,320 lbs) and stand 3.05 metres (10 feet) tall. But don’t let their massive size fool you – these white bears can move with surprising speed and agility.
With a highly acute sense of smell, they are also skilled hunters that can pick up a scent from over 30 kilometres away, and can detect the presence of seals under three feet of snow and ice. Polar bears have no natural enemies and consequently no fear.
A new mark-recapture study undertaken by Canadian Wildlife Service indicates that there are between 900 and 1,000 polar bears in the western Hudson Bay population.
Companies offering polar bear experiences adhere to strict guidelines through Manitoba Conservation, for example, limiting the number of tundra vehicles operating in and around Churchill.
The number of commercial tour operators and the number of vehicles permitted on the high-use areas east of the town site continues to be restricted. Measures are also taken to restrict travel to existing trails and designate some areas as off-limits.
For additional information, visit Manitoba Conservation.