A polar bear strides across the newly formed sea ice along the shore of Hudson Bay.

11/20/2013 1:43:36 PM

Heading Back onto the Sea Ice

It's time to celebrate! The freeze-up of Hudson Bay is well underway, with sea ice stretching out about six miles from shore. The return of the ice means that the Western Hudson Bay polar bears have started the journey back to their seal-hunting grounds: the big males first, followed by younger males, females, and, finally, mothers with cubs.

In a sign that the town of Churchill considers freeze-up here and this year's migration over, conservation officers began to release polar bears from the town's holding facility yesterday and will continue to do so today. Some visitors in Tundra Buggies have observed bears feeding on seal kills just offshore.

This year's ice formation is earlier than in recent years, when delayed freeze-ups of Hudson Bay have forced the bears to undergo longer fasting periods.  Over the past thirty years, the bay has been freezing an average of a day later each year, so it's good news for the bears that natural variation has many of them feasting on seals a bit earlier this year—although later than the historical average and with most of the bay still open water.

We hope you've enjoyed following this year's migration on the Polar Bear Cam and through our blog posts and social media outreach. It's been a gratifying season with interesting natural behavior captured by our cam operators, like this cub playing in a snow bank and four bears hanging out on the tundra.

We'll continue to operate the cams with our partners explore.org, Frontiers North, and Parks Canada as the season winds down. And, of course, we'll share highlights when this year's migration finally ends—and are keeping our fingers crossed that the freeze-up continues to progress and the cold weather holds.

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