Churchill's Polar Bear Migration

A polar bear mother leads her three cubs along the shores of Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba. Polar bears migrate here each fall to wait for freeze-up so they can return to hunting seals, the mainstay of their diet. Details...

Every fall, hundreds of polar bears gather near Churchill, Canada, on Hudson Bay to wait for the sea ice to form.

The Western Hudson Bay polar bears are located at the southern edge of the polar bear’s range. Every summer, they are forced ashore when the bay ice melts. They spend the next few months fasting, conserving their energy and living off their fat reserves. When an autumn nip chills the air, they begin migrating north along the Hudson Bay coast to Churchill in anticipation of freeze-up and a return to their seal-hunting grounds.

Although Churchill’s polar bear migration is part of an age-old pattern, global warming has caused Hudson Bay to melt earlier each summer and to freeze later, greatly shortening the hunting season of these polar bears and straining the limit of their fat reserves. As a result, their numbers have dropped by 22% over the past thirty years and scientists predict the Western Hudson Bay bears could become extinct over the next couple of decades. The trend is expected to occur in other populations in the foreseeable future unless global warming is stopped or reversed.

The live Polar Bear Cam provides a window onto the migration, allowing viewers to become inspired by the beauty of these majestic animals, to witness the effects of global warming first-hand—and to become inspired to take action.

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