When you encounter a Canadian polar bear in the wild, you can imagine seeing a spot of creamy yellow fur on a distant iceberg. However, this amazing animal is on the verge of extinction. Here are some helpful tips for a perfect Canadian polar bear viewing trip!
The best places to see polar bears in Canada
Churchill: the polar bear capital of the world
Although you can see polar bears in the Arctic and Svalbard, your chances of seeing them up close are slim. Canada itself is home to about 17,000 polar bears out of 25,000 worldwide, and by far the best place to see them is Churchill, north of Manitoba.
Its location on Hudson Bay at the extreme north of Manitoba makes it a prime destination because it’s where bears spend the winter after the bay freezes over. They live on the ice because this is the best place to hunt for seals.
They’re so common that there’s an unwritten law in town: people leave their cars and leave their houses unlocked if someone needs a quick escape. However, in general, I have found that Churchill residents are not afraid of bears and have great respect for them. They are used to living next to them and know how to behave to live in harmony.
Baffin Island is also a good choice!
Churchill is not the only place you can see polar bears in Canada.
Nunavut’s Baffin Island, the largest island in the country, is also a famous home for polar bears due to its Arctic location. On Cornwallis Island in Nunavut, Resolute is home to a small Inuit community and is also an ideal spot for polar bear spotting.
The best time to catch polar bears
There are more bears in July and August, but your guide will know where to find them based on where they were last seen.
The tundra burned with purple-burnt grass several feet high. Although it is beautiful to see, it requires you to be vigilant if a bear is hiding among the foliage.
In October and November, this is when polar bears make their way to their winter homes in Hudson Bay. Churchill has the highest concentration of polar bears around mid-October, with between 600 and 1,000 bears congregating along the coast between the Nelson and Churchill rivers.
Darker evenings also mean you’re more likely to see the Northern Lights shimmer in the sky, although visibility is never guaranteed. Some motels offer an evening out to see the spectacle and give you the option of being woken during the night if the lights are on.
What to wear on a polar bear-watching trip
Binoculars are provided and you can rent weatherproof clothing (sometimes free), including a thick jacket and waterproof pants.
I also recommend bringing layers, as the weather can be changeable. Shoes are essential. Keeping warm is even paramount when you’re in the Arctic.