Churchill is one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be observed in the wild. Thousands of visitors from around the world visit each fall for the excitement of seeing these magnificent animals.
When To Go
Polar Bears: July - November
Polar Bear Capital of the World
Churchill is one of the best places in the world to see polar bears because it lies within the natural habitat of a healthy population of polar bears. In the winter months, the bears are feasting on seals on the ice of Hudson Bay. In the summer, they make their way to land, lounging in bright fireweed or walking along the rocky shore.
In October and November, as the temperatures begin to drop, the bears begin to move back to the edge of the bay, waiting to begin their winter feast.
Tundra Vehicle Tours
There are many different ways to see Churchill’s polar bears. Unique tundra vehicles are designed to move carefully over the uneven terrain of the tundra. They provide a safe way to view and photograph bears. Most excursions on tundra vehicles are all day and include lunch onboard, returning to town to overnight in your hotel. Tundra vehicles connected like rail cars offer sleeping accommodations right on the tundra – a totally unique way to immerse yourself in the experience.
Tundra Walking Tours
You can also stay at a wilderness lodge (complete with protective fence), a short plane ride away from Churchill. This experience includes walking tours with an experienced guide to see the bears at ground level. In the summer months, tundra excursions on smaller scale, open air rhino vehicles may also be included.
In the summer months, you can hop aboard a custom-made boat or zodiac for a polar bear viewing experience. These coastal tours offer a chance to see bears on along the rocky shoreline or even swimming in the water.
Helicopter tours let you see polar bears and the beautiful tundra landscape from the air. These 60- and 90-minute tours offer flexibility to move in the direction of the bears’ migration patterns. Plus, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of tundra, taiga and boreal forests.
About Churchill’s polar bears
Frequently called “Lords of the Arctic”, these animals are huge. Male polar bears can grow to more than 600 kg (1,320 lbs) and stand 3.05 metres (10 feet) tall. But despite their massive size, these bears can move with surprising speed.
Polar bears have a highly acute sense of smell. These skilled hunters can pick up a scent from over 30 kilometres away and can detect the presence of seals under three feet of snow and ice.
The western Hudson Bay polar bears are the most southern population of polar bears anywhere in the world.
Studies indicate there are between 900 and 1,000 polar bears in the western Hudson Bay population.
Companies offering polar bear experiences adhere to strict guidelines through Manitoba Conservation that, for example, limit the number of tundra vehicles operating in and around Churchill and outline distance regulations.
The number of commercial tour operators and the number of vehicles permitted on the high-use areas east of the town site continues to be restricted. Measures are also taken to restrict travel to existing trails and designate some areas as off-limits.
For additional information, visit Manitoba Conservation.