by Nolan Booth, Director of Lodge Operations
Once again, the polar bears at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge have us wondering what they are doing and thinking. We had a big female, probably pushing 1,000 pounds, around for a couple of weeks. She was a Churchill bear with two ear tags, and only the fourth tagged bear we have ever seen at Nanuk over the years.
She didn’t really do much but lay around, although she did have an excuse. She had joined in with a few other bears a few days earlier and eaten approximately 200 pounds of a seal that one of them had managed to drag up on to a sandbar. I think I wrote about her earlier, regarding the trouble she was having traveling in the heated days, with all the fat she was carrying.
Recently we had a couple of occasions where we found her walking up the Opoyastin River. It appeared that she was fishing, but we were not lucky enough to see her catch anything. She would walk slowly upstream with her entire face in the water weaving back and forth looking for something under the water. About a week ago she moved on and we have not seen her since. The odd thing is that we have not found her down the coastline either to the east or the west.
Last night during Andy’s (Polar Bear Guide Andy MacPherson) presentation a thought came to me. What if she was wandering up the river looking for an earthen den? We always talk about the animals following the path of least resistance, so why wouldn’t a polar bear walk right up the river instead of through the willows and moose trails. She could walk in the shallows effortlessly and swim through the deep holes where needed. This would also help keep her cool for the long trek of up to 100 km, until she found a suitable denning site in the deep insulated peat.
This is a little early if we go with the late September/October thoughts that the scientists have, but we have a very fat and healthy female who is in her prime and likely pregnant, so why would she stick around the coast with other bears.
It’s quite exciting to think we may have actually seen a female on her way to the denning area, but nearly impossible to prove. We’re hoping to see her again in the spring during our cub emergence program, when we watch for moms and cubs moving from their dens and out to the ice to hunt.
Only time, and a little bit of luck, will tell!