JoAnne has just returned from studying polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Read her previous post, Polar Bears: Living in Churchill.
In November 2001, I journeyed to Churchill for the first time to see polar bears. The freezing cold and strong winds from the north stung. I could not believe that an animal that had the same body temperature as me could live in these conditions. I soon saw how incredibly specialized polar bears are for this arctic home. They were all thick furred and very round with the warm insulating blubber from their main prey, ringed seals.
An update on our Chinook: she is no longer experiencing long, lazy days. No more sleep-ins or early good nights. She seems to have moved well out of what we think of as a false pregnancy and is ready to join our other two polar bears that are out watching our guests.
Over the past week, we have been gradually reintroducing her to a “normal” management routine and she is more than willing. We have even given her access to Kalluk and Tatqiq through an introduction panel in the bedroom area. The result: Chinook and Tatqiq spent a great deal of time sniffing each other and pawing and then plopped down while Tatqiq tried to squeeze a carrot over to Chinook through the panel. Kalluk just watched them and then went back to the indoor pool and splashed around with a new toy. We have been “sneaking” Chinook out to the exhibit for short periods of time. Some of you are very observant!
We will continue with ultrasounds throughout the year to keep Chinook comfortable with the training. This shouldn’t be too hard since she loves the sessions. We will also begin monitoring Kalluk for the first signs that breeding season is on the way. And then the fingers will be crossed (again)!
Unless Chinook shows us something very different with her behavior or we see something on ultrasound, you’ll be seeing our fabulous trio together again very soon!
JoAnne Simerson is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.
JoAnne is in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to study polar bears.
I am sitting out in the middle of the Churchill tundra. I am rocking back and forth in a Tundra Buggy as 44 mile-per-hour (70 kilometer-per-hour) winds blow the snow all around. I think back to my first wild polar bear sighting.
I will open by telling you that this story will break your heart. Please know this will not be easy to read, but it is a story that needs to be told.
JoAnne is in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, to study polar bears. Read her previous post, Polar Bears: Tundra Heartbreak.
What it is like living in the Polar Bear Capital of the World? I am sharing my ninth fall here in Churchill with the folks that call this home. The town has approximately 900 residents, which dramatically increases with as many as 12,000 guests arriving to see the polar bears every fall.