Questions for the curious:
Why don't Polar Bears eat much in the summer? What does the term "beluga" mean? How are Grey wolves different from Arctic wolves?
We woke up this morning to view a big grey wolf outside our bedroom window, trotting across the parking lot, then stopping and looking toward us as we made a made scramble to try to get our cameras. He/she wasn’t willing to wait and trotted off into the surrounding rocks and willows. To see more pictures and even hear what they sound like check out the sites below.
The day just got better. We loaded up in a small tour bus with our tour guide Paul and had a fantastic day. YES, WE SAW POLAR BEARS! In fact we saw three of them! One walking across the tundra and two on rocks near the coast of Hudson Bay. Paul said the one lying closest to us could reach us in 5 seconds if he ran so we had to stay near the bus and not get closer. These bears grow their entire life and can get up to 1500 lbs. The ones we saw looked pretty big! Polar bears are the world's largest land predators. They top the food chain in the Arctic, where they prey primarily on seals. What I thought was interesting is that they hardly eat anything in the summer and sleep for about 80% of the day.
Can you imagine a job where you get up in the morning, jump into a helicopter and fly over arctic terrain looking for polar bears? When you find one you shoot a sleeping dart into them, land and then attach a GPS satellite collar on them, tag them, weigh them and then go and look for another? That is what Dr. Nick Lunn is doing daily at the CNSC while we are here. During breakfast today we told me yesterday he tagged 10 bears. Back at the University of Alberta graduate students gather and track the data on the location of the bears about every 4 days. They are wanting to see their travel paths and when they venture out onto the ice in Hudson Bay.
The main threat to polar bears today is the loss of their icy habitat due to climate change. Polar bears depend on the sea ice for hunting, breeding, and in some cases to den. The summer ice loss in the Arctic is now equal to an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined.
We also saw bald eagles, sand cranes, snow geese, several more species of birds, three baby red foxes, and about 75 Canadian Eskimo dogs as we drove around. But was was really great was seeing a large number of Beluga Whales. I found out Beluga is the Russian word for “white” and they are the “white bears of the sea”. The whales looked like white blobs coming out of the ocean, and we were close enough to even see their blow holes and 7 or 8 at any one time coming out of the water.
The weather was beautiful, no rain, no bugs, and not too cold nor too hot…just right for a great day off!
Tomorrow I’ll post more pictures, meanwhile here are a few thanks to Joe Green, photographer, extraordinaire!