10/31/2011 3:22:29 PM
Halloween on the Tundra
Happy Halloween from the shores of Hudson Bay!
Soon after daybreak, PBI's BJ Kirschhoffer drove us aboard Tundra Buggy® One into the Churchill Wildlife Management Area south of Churchill. The partially frozen military trail wove through dwarf willows, wind-flagged white spruce, dwarf blueberry, Labrador tea and a variety of tundra vegetation as we wended our way to the Tundra Buggy Lodge (TBL), about two hours distant.
Fall colors were now faded, and the ecosystem on standby until next spring when warmth breathes life into the tundra once again. But in spite of the cold, barren nature of the land, the great white bear is here, in numbers, waiting until ice transforms Hudson Bay once again into the seal-hunting ground it last was about four months ago. Engine lugging as we climb up out of an icy puddle, rime ice has built a low hurdle, yet the buggy motors on.
A stray ptarmigan, decked out in winter white, scurries across the road. We see no more life until a small flock of snow buntings flush from the roadway as we approach. About 1.5 hours into the journey we spy the first bear, looking more like an abandoned Halloween costume, sprawled out on a rocky shoreline, its motionless body conforming to the uneven rocks beneath. Thrilled at seeing our first bear of the year, we watched its disheveled off-white form for a few minutes then resumed the jostling buggy ride to the Lodge.
At the TBL we were met by Dave, Julie, and Brie, familiar faces from previous years' trips. They loaded us up with food for lunch then we headed off towards Ptarmigan Alley where we would connect up with college students for two separate Tundra Connections broadcasts. While telling students about the impacts of climate change on polar bear populations in both northern Alaska and Western Hudson Bay, a couple of bears bedded nearby provided a stunning backdrop for the presentations. Our messages were well received, we answered questions, then wrapped things up.
The PBI message is that we can and must make changes in our daily lives that lessen our individual impact on the earth. We also need to get involved at the government level (city, state and federal) to effectuate changes in energy policy and greenhouse gas emissions. We know we can reverse the present trend and we must if the Earth we know and love is to be enjoyed by our posterity.
On a lighter note - even the polar bears were getting into the Halloween spirit as evidenced by this photo taken near the TBL. I had to do a double-take, as at first I thought it was just a well-fed bird..... : )
Happy Halloween from the Churchill Wildlife Management Area!
PBI's Buggy One Crew: Tom Smith, BJ Kirschhoffer, Henry Harrison, Rebbeca Noblin, and Kristin Dantagnan. Tundra Buggy photos by BJ Kirschhoffer; middle bear by Kevin Middel; photo-shopped bear, unknown.