What Life Is Like In The ‘polar Bear Capital Of The World’

What Life Is Like In The ‘polar Bear Capital Of The World’

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A polar bear seeks shelter from a looming blizzard outside the town of Churchill, Manitoba.

There are no roads leading to the tiny Canadian town of Churchill, which sits near the northeast tip of Manitoba.

But that doesn’t stop thousands of tourists from taking a train or a plane and visiting every fall.

That’s because in this area, near the shores of the Hudson Bay, you can go out on a tour and get a glimpse of the world’s largest land carnivore: the polar bear.

Polar bears playfully fight with each other outside of Churchill. Two people take in a sunset where the Churchill River flows into the Hudson Bay. The Churchill region is one of the southernmost places you’ll find polar bears. These bears spend most of the year on the Hudson Bay ice, hunting for seals. But when the ice melts in the summer, they have to come ashore for a few months.

Sometimes, the bears wander near town.

“During bear season, (locals) say that’s pretty common,” said photographer Carlos Osorio, who visited Churchill earlier this month. “I asked people this question a lot, too, because I was super interested: ‘Hey, how common are bears in town?’ I asked the taxi driver who drove me from the airport to my hotel and he said: ‘Oh, we just had a bear in town last night. He was like right there on the corner.’ ”

A polar bear rests as a blizzard moves into the area outside of Churchill. A sign urges caution in Churchill. There’s a 24/7 hotline that people can call to report bear sightings. In Churchill, there’s always the possibility of a polar bear encounter; it literally comes with the territory.

But the town has taken steps to reduce risks.

There is a “bear patrol” with staff members who monitor the area. There’s a 24/7 hotline that people can call to report a sighting: 675-BEAR. The town has also started to test a new radar system, or “beardar,” to warn of approaching bears.

Attacks have been rare. The last one was in 2013, according to the Reuters news agency, and there hasn’t been a fatal attack since the early 1980s.

Wind-swept spruce trees are illuminated by a vehicle’s light during a blizzard in Churchill.

This aerial photo shows some ice around Churchill. The Hudson Bay, however, wasn’t frozen yet.

A mural of a polar bear is seen on a building in Churchill. Only about 900 people live in Churchill, but those who do know to stay aware and be prepared at all times. There’s also a custom of leaving car doors unlocked, just in case someone is outside and needs to quickly find protection from a bear.

“You just have to be careful,” Osorio said. “You can’t be anywhere by yourself. You have to have a vehicle or someone with you or some means of scaring a bear.

“Some people carry shotguns and fire whatever guns they have into the air. But if you don’t have a gun permit, then you could just fire off ‘bear bangers,’ which are basically like really loud cap guns with a little flare on them. That’s how you scare the bear away if you get caught in a predicament like that.”

Local resident Simon Barbour loads his starter pistol just in case he needs to use the noise to scare off bears. An old airplane hangar serves as a polar bear “jail” where bears are held after venturing too close to town. They are eventually released back into the wild. Scaring away the bear is the first tactic that the bear patrol will use if they see a bear getting close to town. If that doesn’t wor

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