Located on Hudson Bay in the far north of Manitoba sits Churchill. The town is best known for the many polar bears that inhabit the area.
Starting in the 1980s, the town developed a sizable tourism industry focused on the migration habits of the polar bear. Tourists can safely view polar bears from specially modified vehicles built to navigate the tundra terrain. Utilizing a set of trails created by the Canadian and US military, responsible tour operators are granted permits to access these trails for wildlife viewing.
October and early November are the most feasible times to see polar bears, thousands of which wait on the vast peninsula until the water freezes on Hudson Bay so they can return to hunt their primary food source, ringed seals. There are also opportunities to see polar bears in the non-winter months, with tours via boat visiting the coastal areas where polar bears can be found both on land and swimming in the sea.
Many locals even leave their cars unlocked in case someone needs to make a quick escape from the polar bears in the area. Local authorities maintain a so-called "polar bear jail" where bears (mostly adolescents) who persistently loiter in or close to town, are held after being tranquilised, pending release back into the wild when the bay freezes over.
It's not only Polar Bears that draw people to the remote community. In summer, beluga whales are on view in the Churchill River. The area also offers the chance for wintertime Northern Lights visibility and seasonal bird-watching.
The polar bear's native range lies largely within the Arctic Circle, encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the largest extant bear species, as well as the largest extant land carnivore.
Polar bears look cute, cuddly and even friendly. But don't be fooled. They're expert hunters and ferocious with it. Here are all the reasons you need to keep a respectable distance and admire them from afar.