Joan Thuebel Presents: Polar Bear studies with Earthwatch near Hudson Bay
Joan Thuebel presented an illustrated talk on her Earthwatch scientific research of Polar Bears at the Research Station near Churchill on Hudson Bay. The March 15 program was very interesting and well-attended. In above photo, Mary Anne thanks Kiwanis member Joan for giving the talk. Joan has been on 27 Earthwatch adventures.
She started with some facts: Male Polar Bears (1500 pounds) live 18 years; females (500 pounds) live 25 years. They range over an area the size of the British Isles so they are not “territorial”. They live on ice flows, eat seal blubber, and they carry about 6 inches of blubber. In April the ice melts and they come ashore, where there are no seals. From then until late October when the ice begins to freeze, the bears have nothing to eat.
Bears mate while on land. However, the babies do not develop until the bears return to living on the ice. Earthwatch tundra buggies travel on unpaved trails to serve the “DEW-Line”. Joan’s Earthwatch was in October. One task was to observe play-fighting between males. Earthwatch was trying to determine why the males do this. Females are friendly to each other but they avoid male bears. Another task was to determine the reaction by bears to helicopters, which flew over from time-to-time.
It is not safe to be outside of the buggies when bears are close. They are extremely aggressive. They are curious about people and come right up to the buggies (see above photo). People go out on the buggies from 8:00 am until about 3:00 pm. They observe them, photograph them, use range-finders to estimate their size and log the location with using GPS. Bears are identified and tracked via scars on their faces. Bears are lethargic when temperature is warm (over 35 deg. F). They roll around in snow when they find it.
Between about October 15 and November 15, you can go to website www.polarbearcam.com and watch the bears. Photos are taken every 30 seconds. They also saw wolves, Snowy Owls and Artic Foxes. Also, they saw the Northern Lights. See photo of Artic Fox.
Residents of Churchill manage the local Polar Bears when they come into town. There is a bear jail where some are put. From the library in the Research Station, they could see bears through a window at night. She went to Churchill via airplane.