A polar bear walking through the willows on the tundra

Photo: Joanna Sulich

Week Two on the Tundra

By Alysa McCall, Director of Conservation Outreach and Staff Scientist



24 Oct 2022

This Week in Churchill

As we head into our second week of polar bear season, the frosty tundra is softening under a new spell of rain. Most of the bears have remained hunkered in the willows, with a few rolling out into the open to scratch and stretch along the shores of Hudson Bay. Willow ptarmigan pepper the landscape—their feathers nearly fully transitioned from tawny brown to their bright white winter form. 

Willow ptarmigan on snow with mostly white feathers

Photo: Kieran McIver / Polar Bears International

A willow ptarmigan with its feathers mostly transitioned to its white winter form.

Our team has been on the go over the last week, talking to visitors about polar bears in our public interpretive center, running the Polar Bear Cams, and connecting with classrooms around the world through our free Tundra Connections webcasts. We also recently attached one of our remote bear-detection systems to a portable tower and moved it out to a well known bear crossing location. Throughout the season, we will refine this ground-based radar system's ability to alert the Churchill community of approaching bears—with the goal of reducing potentially harmful human-bear encounters. 

PBI's mobile radar tower at Cape Merry

Photo: Kt Miller / Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International's new mobile radar tower.

We have an exciting week ahead. Here’s what we have planned:

  • With more polar bears arriving daily and a nip in the air, our live Polar Bear Cams give you a window into the migration. Watch for moms, cubs, young bears, and big males as they wait for the sea ice to return. Also keep an eye out for guest appearances by other wildlife, from caribou to snowy owls.

  • We’ve scheduled two free Tundra Connections webcasts this week. The first, Survival of the Fattest, will air on Tuesday, October 25th, at 12:00 pm Central. The second, Trash Talk: The Impact of Human Food on Polar Bears, is slated for Thursday, October 27th, at 1 p.m. To join us, sign up for a reminder through the links above and watch here at the appropriate time.

  • We’ve also planned a live chat, Bear-dar: Updates from the Field, on Wednesday, October 26th at 1 p.m. Central, on our efforts to develop an early warning radar system that will notify people before bears enter communities—keeping both species safe.Add it to your calendar through the link above and join the chat here.

And don’t forget: Polar Bear Week starts October 30th and runs through November 5th! Make plans to join us, including supporting our efforts to raise $150,000 to research the development of “Detect and Protect” bear-dar technology to alert communities of approaching bears.You can donate hereor you can start your own fundraiser. The goal is to help polar bears and people coexist—keeping both from harm.

P.S. If you missed last week’s Tundra Connections broadcasts, you can watch the archives here.

A bear-safe garbage bin in Churchill

Photo: Erinn Hermsen / Polar Bears International

A bear-safe garbage bin in Churchill.

Field Highlight

As part of our ongoing efforts to promote coexistence between polar bears and people, we’re supporting a waste management project in Churchill to examine innovative ways to reduce attractants to polar bears. This is important because food waste is a problem across the North. Burying is not sustainable in tundra areas and impossible in bedrock. Yet open dumps are an invitation to trouble, leading to problem bears, conflict, and frequently increased mortality. The lessons learned here can be shared across the Arctic, helping polar bears and people live safely with each other.