They easily rival Teddy or Corduroy on the cute scale: bright-eyed, roly-poly cubs bouncing behind mama polar bear, out discovering their new universe. Up here, in northern Manitoba’s sub-Arctic tundra, we call ‘em COYs (cubs of the year). These white ‘n furry fellows are a hot eco-travel draw to the world’s polar-bear capital. Early spring is the time to catch them as mom ushers them, at three months of age, out of their birth dens in the Wapusk National Park area, to introduce them to the great big outside world for the first time-- a trip available only in limited numbers through Watchee Lodge. Over the summer, they might be spotted with mom checking out the tundra, and by fall they'll be hanging out with the big boys waiting for freeze-up.
Northern Soul Wilderness Adventures’ three-night, Churchill, MB-based hiking adventure travels the coastline in search of bears and abandoned bear daybeds, collecting hairs from the beds for an ongoing polar-bear DNA project.
Churchill Wild’s Birds, Bears and Belugas trip flies guests to remote Seal River Heritage Lodge in July and August for spotting snowy-white beluga whales in the Seal River estuary, plus polar bears and cubs strolling around the lodge, coastline and estuary, as well as some 100 species of northern birds. Tundra summers are filled with life: ground-hugging, thick moss; delicate, bright wildflowers and berry bushes; caribou, red and Arctic foxes; and, of course, bears, who are as interested in the belugas as people are — but for different reasons. Lodge guests have spied these giants hunting belugas from coastal rocks.
At Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in the Cape Tatnum Wildlife Management Area bordering Wapusk National Park, the humans are the ones behind bars — a 3-m (10-ft) high fence around the camp, safe from bears that often patrol the perimeter. From this base on the edge of Hudson Bay, all-terrain vehicles tour trails in July and August to see sows and cubs browsing sedge grass — a little green roughage before a coming winter of seal entrées. Coastal beaches harbour bears dozing in daybeds they’ve dug in the cool sand. Here, you can watch that timeless parenting tough-love tale unfold: mothers casting off two- and three-year-old cubs, sweet babies who are all grown up.
www.nanukpolarbearlodge.com www.churchillwild.com www.northernsoul.ca