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Churchill’s Belugas – Day 1


Version française de ce texte.

Hello all!

As mentioned in my previous post, I am currently in Churchill, northern Manitoba, in order to participate in two programs aiming at discovering the wildlife of Churchill. I am starting with the Hudson’s Bay Belugas program offered by Ursus International . Then, starting on August 11, I will participate in the Wild Planet learning vacation offered by the Churchill Northern Studies Center .

Our first day of activities has been somewhat altered as Mother Nature decided to send rain and strong winds. It was out of the question to risk venturing on the Hudson’s Bay to observe the belugas. Flexibility being a reality of life in the North, we adjusted the schedule and took the opportunity to get an orientation tour of Churchill and the surrounding area.

Guided by Rupert Pilkington, director of Ursus International and a conservation and wildlife management specialist with a more specific expertise with the bears, our group of five people made a stop along the coast to walk on the beach. Some of us found great fossils, a ressource which abounds in the area. What a shame that a quarry operating in this sector is turning this wealth into coarse stones for road construction!

Walking along the Hudson' Bay Coast

After a stop in the town of Churchill, we headed to Goose Creek and the weir on the Churchill River to observe birds. Along the way, we passed a van whose occupants flagged us down to warn us that a polar bear was nearby. We continued our way slowly while all eyes scanned the landscape in all directions hoping to see the animal.

Eureka! Less than five minutes later we saw a white head and two eyes come up from behind fireweeds.

Polar bear resting behind old railroad tracks.

The animal was resting near railway tracks that are no longer in use. From time to time it lifted its head to inspect its surroundings and then disappeared again. We watched it for at least thirty minutes before deciding to continue our journey towards the weir, with the intent to stop again on the way back.

The weir, a structure of 4 km in length which crosses the Churchill River about 10 miles south of the town, was built in order to increase the water level of the river and to create a lake that would improve the fish habitat and would enhance recreational activities. A two-storey observation tower was installed near the new marina. In this sector, we have observed various birds including some species of waders, terns, a group of pintail ducks, a bald eagle and an osprey that had caught a fish too heavy for it. Despite all its attempts, the bird was never able to fly with its prey.

Semipalmated Plover


On the way back, we stopped for a second time to see if the polar bear was still around. To our surprise and dismay, we found it in a scrap metal dump where someone had obviously come to burn waste not suitable for the place. Although the community of Churchill has established a waste management program where all compostable waste are to be stored in an enclosed building (the building known as L5 is located 5km outside the town and was once used as cold storage by the Fort Churchill military base), there seems to be some individuals who are reluctant to comply with the regulations. So sad for the bears!

Polar bear inspecting waste which were still burning

To be continued soon!
France Rivet

1 comment to Churchill’s Belugas – Day 1

  • Great photos, France. I have my fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate and that you will get your paddling with the belugas. Looking forward to hearing about more of your adventures and seeing more great photos.

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