In the Canadian province of Manitoba there is a town located on the west shore of Hudson Bay, at the estuary of the Churchill River, with which it shares its name.
Churchill is a small town with some interesting historical facts. It was named after an ancestor of the famous British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, who lived in the seventeenth century.
However, Churchill is famous for its wildlife, which is the main source of wealth. With the development of ecotourism, its local authorities have named it the Polar Bear Capital of the World. This is because polar bears roam freely in Churchill, and every October they travel to the west shore of Hudson Bay and wait until the water freezes so that they can hunt on the ice for their favourite food: ringed seals, also abundant in the area.
Therefore, it is very easy to see polar bears in the surroundings of the town, and not just that, it is not surprising to see some of them wandering the streets.
Carnivorous and large, polar bears weigh around 350-680 kg and some of the exceptionally big adult males can weigh almost a ton, not precisely a sight to go unnoticed in town. So visitors are given specific instructions from local residents (who have been trained since primary school) on how to react when faced with one of these plantigrades.
The town has bear traps (non lethal) to catch, when possible, those who wander into town. Once caught, they are taken to an enclosed area and then released back into the wild where they are not dangerous. This is done in a very smart way: they are flown away inside a net attached to a helicopter.
The town lives mainly off ecotourism. It is not for its pleasant climate that tourists go to Churchill (between 12ºC in summer and -27ºC in winter), but for its local population of more than 1200 polar bears during the bear watching season, as well as some 3000 Beluga whales, countless ringed seals, around 200 species of birds and the magnificent aurora borealis from August to September.
Visitors can hire the famous Tundra Buggies for wildlife viewing and photography in organized tours. They can also enjoy the freezing nights in the ice fields by staying at the Tundra Lodge, a rolling hotel made up of special cabins with surprising comfort on wheels.
Finally, there is one more curious detail worth mentioning: vehicles in Churchill are never locked for two reasons: first, so people can get inside and escape polar bears. Second, because Churchill is not connected by road with the rest of the world…
…So nobody is likely to get very far if your car is stolen in Churchill