Description: Churchill is the largest wildlife management area, almost 850,000 hectares, and one of the most important in the province. It protects the polar bear’s summer resting areas and maternity denning grounds, where the white bears are born. Churchill is also the northernmost WMA, accessible by railway, air or cruise ship. For many, a trip to Churchill is an opportunity of a lifetime and you will be richly rewarded with the wildlife you see.
If you plan to visit in spring and summer go for the birds. Churchill is known globally as a birders’ paradise – over 225 species have been identified in the region. The best time to visit is June through September. In June, as the ice breaks up on the bay, look for sea birds like the Long-tailed Duck, Common Eiders and Pacific and Red-throated Loons. Gulls are abundant; watch for Ross’s, Bonaparte’s, Sabine’s and Little Gulls. Tundra Swan, Hudsonian Godwit, Northern Shrike, Lapland Longspur, Gyrfalcon and Merlin are some of the many species found here. Akudlik Marsh is a good place to look for birds. Then there are the whales. Thousands of beluga whales move into the Churchill, Nelson and Hayes estuaries to feed in July and August. You should also watch for caribou along the coastal flats in summer. Fall is polar bear season. The great white bears gather along the coast waiting for the bay to freeze so they can break their fast and return to the ice to hunt seals. While watching for bears scan across the tundra for other wildlife. Look for Arctic hare, Arctic fox, Willow Ptarmigan, Snowy Owl and Snow Geese in the thousands.
It is always best to tour the area with experienced guides who specialize in wildlife viewing. A visit to the Parks Canada Centre in the Churchill train station will give you a chance to see some of the wildlife you might not see otherwise, such as the polar bear tucked up in her den with two cubs. Something else you will want to watch for on your trip – northern lights.
Akudlik Marsh, Parks Canada Visitor Centre in the train station, Cape Merry and Prince of Wales Fort
subarctic transition zone – coniferous forest (boreal/alpine), tundra, rivers/streams, fen, tidal rivers/estuaries, mud or sand flats (saline), freshwater lake, freshwater marsh, bog, coastal sand dunes and beaches, open sea, inlets/coastal features (marine), rocky flats and barrens
polar bear, beluga whale, Ross’s Gull, Pacific Loon, Long-tailed Duck, Willow Ptarmigan
You should travel with a qualified guide for safety. A simple walk along the coast can turn deadly if you come across a bear lounging in the rocks.
No entrance fee