Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Polar Bear Adventure Day 6: Dogs, Bears and Farewell

The sled dogs can't wait to get going

Friday, November 4 was our last day in Churchill. We got up early and were met in the lobby of our hotel by John Stetson, winner of the 2005 Hudson Bay Quest dogsled race.

We all got into John's truck and he drove us to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre.

On our way over there, a polar bear ran full speed across the road right in front of the truck. It ran a ways off the road, then turned to watch us drive away.

At the Northern Studies Centre, John showed us a slideshow of his many previous dogsled expeditions. It was very interesting, John has been to both poles by dogsled, in addition to many other places around the world.

Getting ready to go

Then we drove to where the dogs were. John loaned us some expedition parkas to put on over the parkas we were a little overstuffed, but nice and warm.

A view from the sled

Although it had just snowed in Churchill, it was the first snow of the year that stuck, and there wasn't really enough snow to ride in a regular sled, so we rode in a sled with wheels.

Steven, Doug, me and Sean in our borrowed expedition clothing

John told us of occasional encounters with polar bears while dogsledding. Apparently an entire dogsled team is more than enough match for a polar bear.

John Stetson with Sean and Steven and John's son Nelson

After our ride we returned to the Northern Studies Centre for coffee and hot chocolate, then John drove us back to our hotel.

We had lunch with our tour group at our hotel, then we walked to the rail station to attend a presentation at the Parks Canada museum.

Our tour guide Hayley found out that there was to be a bear drop that Friday, and was calling to try and arrange a close-up and personal bear experience for Steven.

She finalized the details and a taxi came to the rail station to take us to the polar bear jail.

The sedated bear was brought out on a cart

Shortly after we got there, a sedated bear was brought out of the jail on a cart.

This bear weighed around 1200 pounds, and he'd been brought to the jail after showing up in the backyard of one of their local preachers. The bear had been in jail for about a month, and they were preparing to release him back into the wild.

Steven examining the bear's paw

They carefully rolled him off the cart and on to a net on the ground. The bear was conscious, his eyes were open and moving, and his paws were trembling, a side effect of the sedative.

Steven and the RCMP officer holding the bear's head

The sedative that is given lasts about an hour before it wears off. Steven and I were able to feel the bear's fur and examine his head and his paws.

Although he couldn't move, he was aware of our presence.

The helicopter taking the bear away

A helicopter came and the bear was wrapped up in the net and the helicopter took off to take him away from the town, where he would be released.

It was an awesome experience to be in such close contact with one of those magnificent animals.

Sunset from the tarmac as we boarded the plane

After the bear drop, it was time to head to the airport to get ready to fly back to Winnipeg. It was another beautiful sunset as we bid goodbye to Churchill.

- Kathleen


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