A mother polar bear and two cubs walk on the sea ice under a sunset.

© Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures

11/16/2020 10:01:26 PM

Back on the Sea Ice

By Kieran McIver, Churchill Operations Manager

Every year, the polar bear’s migration onto the sea ice near Churchill, Manitoba surprises me. It’s a stark contrast—one day the bears are here on land, roaming the coast, easy to spot, and as soon as the bay begins to freeze and the ice can hold their weight, they’re gone. They belong to the ocean and to the sea ice.   

Polar bears can travel impressive distances across this frozen landscape. We just received an update that a male bear outfitted with a tracking ear tag was beginning his hunting season 40 kilometers off shore. Less than a week ago, he was still on land. He is followed by all the other bears we've spent time with this fall–moms and cubs, mischievous subadults, seasoned elders. I hope the cold weather holds and their sea ice home and hunting grounds continues to firm and freeze. 

As we close another season of outreach and research and say farewell to these bears, I'm filled with a renewed sense of hope. Polar bears are resilient, but they need our help–and I believe in our communities and our countries to take collective action to protect their future.  

Here's what's in store for our final week of programming:  

  • We have one more Tundra Connections webcast on the schedule! Tune in for Cool Tools - Studying Polar Bears with Cutting-Edge Technologies, on Tuesday, November 17th at 12:00 pm CT. To join, register and then watch here at the appropriate time.  
  • Join us for a final live chat, Season Highlights & Cam Creatures, on Thursday, November 19th at 12:00 pm CT. You can watch here
  • If you missed a webcast or want to revisit a favorite, you can find them all in the archive library

Thank you for tuning in this season and for your commitment to polar bear conservation. We couldn't do this work without you. 


2020 has changed how we do many things, including polar bear research.

For the last several decades, researchers have collared and monitored the movements of female polar bears with cubs out onto the southwest Hudson Bay sea ice–and the Bear Tracker on our website brings some of this data to life so you can follow along at home.

This year, however, the pandemic forced scientists to suspend their usual tracking efforts and turn their attention towards other tracking methods and technologies.

Here's what you can expect on the Bear Tracker this year.

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