My hometown of Churchill, Manitoba is a Canadian town located on the edge of the Arctic. It still has a distinctive frontier town feel about it and comes to life whenever a new group of visitors arrive. The people that live here are friendly, proud of their hometown and the scenery is unique and spectacular in its own way.
The northern point of the Canadian Shield as the boreal forest ends and the Taiga begins is where this magical place is, and I was born on the tundra just outside of the town. There are polar bears, of course, majestic creatures we are! But, there arealso snowshoe hares, ptarmigans, arctic foxes, snowy owls, and in the summertime, hundreds of beluga whales in the Churchill River.
Us Polar Bears are everywhere, and rightly so. We’re amazing creatures. The locals have us painted on murals and signs; have souvenirs and sculptures paying tribute to us and proudly print our images on t-shirts. Sometimes, we bears wander into town, which isn’t a good place for us to be. This isn’t new to either human or bear. Humans have learned to live in our home and are careful to not do anything that will habituate us bears, like feeding us human food. We bears live in careful harmony with the humans of the area. Sometimes, though, one of us gets a bit naughty and might end up overnight or spend a few days in the polar bear jail, before being resettled out on the tundra. Most of us behave ourselves, though.
Out in the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (WMA), about 20 minutes from town, is the subarctic transition zone, right on the shores of Hudson Bay and this is where you’ll see polar bears and the other arctic wildlife. Churchill has the largest wildlife management area in the province of Manitoba, and one of the most important. This area protects the polar bear’s summer resting areas and maternity denning grounds. This is the area where I was born and raised by my Mom as a cub. In the winter we’d go out on to the ice and hunt for seal. Yum!
Churchill’s economy relies on its tourist industry – famous for polar bears, beluga whales, northern lights, Hudson’s Bay Company history and northern hospitality. With the pandemic now limiting travel it’s tough for a community like my hometown to survive. I hope that everyone that wants to see us polar bears plans a future trip to this special northern frontier town, once travel in our world opens up again. Canadians, especially from Western Canada and NW Ontario, and Manitobans, pretty soon you’ll all be able to come here if things keep improving. If you want to help the people of Churchill recover from this rough patch, go visit once you can, learn about their town, and beluga whales. Not only will you be helping the community, you will also be experiencing this adventure of a lifetime!