A mom and two cubs have emerged at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge! What a fantastic way to kick off our first polar bear safari of the year!
Churchill Wild guides Albert Saunders, Adam Reimer and Boomer Jerritt set the scene for you below, while 17-time guests Christoph and Fabienne Jansen of ArcticWild.net fill in the details on the Nanuk Emergence Quest, including the photos you see here.
“Six guests flew into Nanuk in cold but sunny and calm weather,” said Riemer. “The scouts found the mother and cubs the day after the guests had flown in, but they were about 30 km inland from the Chiman river and unreachable, so we had to keep tabs on her until she got closer to the coast.
“We spent several days in -45°C with one day getting as cold as -56°C, alternating between checking on the bears and traversing the coastline getting our eyes on snowy owls, wolves and ptarmigan, not to mention amazing sunrises and northern lights! We could see that the mom and cubs were on the right track and we felt they might make it to the coast the next day.”
And they did!
“International Polar Bear Day was a good day for guests,” said Jerritt. “After four days of tracking, positioning, repositioning, backtracking and waiting in sub-zero, snowy blowy temperatures, mom and cubs emerged from the boreal forest making for the Hudson Bay coast.
“Two popcorn sized cubs, bounding after mom in the deep snows and willow runs of the forest, made all the hard work of finding the polar bears melt away, leaving guests with an experience second to none!”
Christoph and Fabienne Jansen report below.
“Our scouts, Ben (Lawrence) and Emma (Klippenstein) had discovered the tracks of a bear family a week earlier, but they were too far inland, and therefore not accessible to us. At that time, it was around -56°C with the windchill and most animals more or less stayed put. The same seemed to be true of ‘our’ mom and her two cubs.
“We knew that with the traditional sleds, the komatiks pulled behind snowmobiles, we could probably get as far as 10 km up the rivers, but all the wooded areas between the rivers and further inland were only accessible by snowmobiles, if at all.”
“The day before our very special day, all guests were put on the backseats of several snowmobiles and we worked our way about 15 km south of the coast, somewhere east of the Mistasini River. While we didn‘t get to the mom and her cubs, she sure was on the move. Higher temperatures (-25°C) seemed to be more favourable for them. Then finally, our big day arrived.
“We planned to leave the lodge well before sunrise around 6:30 a.m. When we were ready to leave however, wolves showed up right at the lodge. They were howling at the break of dawn, which was a wonderful way to start the day! The decision was not easy: Should we stay with the wolves, that we now had for sure? Or should we try to locate the bears for the slim chance of seeing them?”
“Well, we were on the Nanuk Emergence Quest, and the decision was kind of obvious. We began before sunrise and headed east about 30 km, stopping near Chiman River, where we set up a small camp and had some coffee and breakfast.
“We then travelled further east and started making our way up Nesayaketakayow River. At some point, we had to abandon the komatiks and again put all guests on the backseats of the snowmobiles so we could head back into the woods. Everyone was excited, as we had heard from our scouts that the bear family was pretty close now.”
“We positioned ourselves behind some willows so as to not scare or stress the bears, should they really make an appearance. And they did! A very relaxed mom and her two healthy cubs were making their way north in a partially wooded area. We had tears in our eyes!
“We carefully repositioned ourselves, but mom didn‘t mind at all. We watched her and the two cubs for a long time, until the beautiful family started moving again. Being smart, they used our snowmobile tracks to head back to the river.”
“We also returned to the river so we could make our way back to the lodge. We weren’t really expecting to see the family again, but suddenly, mom and her cubs popped out of the treeline and onto the river, just in front of us.
“While mom and one cub were quick to move away, the other cub was interested in inspecting us closer. He or she was walking towards our snowmobiles on its short legs, making hissing sounds. We had never seen anything as cute as this! Finally, mom turned around and got her curious cub and they trotted off into the treeline.”
“After 12 hours in the field, we returned to the lodge as happy (and tired) as could be. With the bears still about five km off the coast, we would be trying for another sighting the next day. Even if it was just to see if they had made it safely on to the sea ice…
“It would be worth every second.”