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Polar Bear Capital of the World

Aug 17, 2007
For a short time each year, the remote Canadian town of Churchill, Manitoba is transformed into the Polar Bear Capital of the World. This curious place, accessible by air, sea or train, with its long main street, low rise buildings and distinctly pioneering feel, becomes the centre of attention for bears and visitors alike.

In October and November, as many as 1200 bears gather here on the icy tundra, waiting for the sea to freeze so they can wander out in search of seals. After fasting for the summer, the bears are particularly hungry. Churchill is perched on a spit of land between the western shore of Hudson Bay and the Churchill River and for centuries, this peninsula has been the bears natural access point into the bay.

Polar bears have the ability to detect scent from as far away as 20 miles. Churchill proves irresistible, particularly if the big freeze is taking a while to happen. But dont be concerned, the resident Polar Bear Police have a tried and tested humane procedure for dealing with strays that wander where they are not wanted. It involves a rather large trap, tranquilliser dart, a brief stay in the polar bear jail, then a helicopter trip out of town to relocate somewhere more appropriate. This closely monitored procedure works well for the bears and the townsfolk.

The great advantage of polar bear watching in Churchill is that its a comfortable adventure. Instead of camping on an ice field with an arctic wind howling through your tent, after youve spent a day with the bears you simply return to civilisation, eat a hearty home cooked meal and then sleep in a comfortable hotel bed.

Temperatures can range from minus ten degrees to nine degrees and although there is likely to be snow and possibly rain, there is also a good chance of having bright, clear days so bring sunglasses. The particularly dark nights and lack of artificial lighting outside of town, you may well get to witness a display of the northern lights.

Churchill occupies a transitional zone where the stunted trees of the taiga meet the mosses of the tundra. Blanketed with snow in the winter and covered by thousands of bogs and lakes in the summer, this terrain is completely flat until it reaches the sloping banks of the Churchill River and the ridge around Hudson Bay, whose grey quartzite boulders have been rubbed smooth by the action of the ice, wind and water.
About the Author
Douglas Scott works for The Rental Car Hire Specialist. and is a free lance writer for The Churchill Rental Site
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