Up close with a huge male Polar Bear – Churchill, Canada 2022

Up close with a huge male Polar Bear. On the outskirts of Churchill, Manitoba, Canada it was a bitterly cold morning with a strong wind blowing snow across the tundra. In the distance we saw a huge male Polar Bear walking slowly towards us. He got closer and closer and lay down in the snow a few metres away from us. He was totally relaxed and unconcerned by our presence. It was fascinating to observe the bears behaviour. He was oblivious to the cold and the snow, He lay in the snow and occasionally looked around. I loved the way his nose flicked from side to side as he tested the air for potential threats. His sensitive black tongue came out to test the air. He was completely at one with his icy environment whilst we fought against the environment we found ourselves immersed in. As my hands froze as I filmed this icon of the frozen north, he just relaxed and had a snooze.

Polar Bears congregate on the tundra close to Hudson’s Bay, Churchill, because this is the place they know where the bay will freeze over first and they will be able to hunt seals and have their first substantial meal in months. The reason Polar Bears congregate here is that Hudson Bay freezes first at this location because the fresh water from the Churchill river enters the bay, reduces its salinity and hence it freezes earlier than the rest of the bay. It’s a waiting game. It was very cold when we were there but not cold enough to freeze the sea. However, within a few days of this being filmed, the temperature plummeted even more and the bay began to freeze over. At this point, the Polar Bears left Churchill in search of seals which will haul out on the new ice. Global warming is a serious threat to these icons of the far north since they rely on sea ice to feed.