Polar Bear a Greater Representative of Manitoba: Currie

Polar Bear a Greater Representative of Manitoba: Currie

By Roger Currie

Polar Bear Cubs
Two orphaned polar bear cubs brought to the Assiniboine Park Zoo after being rescued along the Hudson Bay coastline last week. (ASSINIBOINE PARK CONSERVANCY)

Throughout its history, Manitoba has been blessed with people who think big. It may explain why the Bison is the official animal of the province. Perhaps it’s time to consider switching to the mighty Ursus maritimus, better known as the polar bear.

The adult male can grow to be more than 1,500 pounds, and they are not to be messed with. Arctic Manitoba is polar bear territory, and Churchill, on the shore of Hudson Bay, is a place where they have had to co-exist with us two-legged homo sapiens.

In most places these days, we’re advised to carefully lock the doors of our homes and vehicles, but not in Churchill. The advice there is to leave all doors unlocked in case a pedestrian might suddenly need a safe escape from a marauding bear. We’re just heading into the time of year when the bears are on the move, and they’re a huge tourist attraction in Churchill.

Down south in Winnipeg, millions have been spent on a new exhibit at the Assiniboine Park Zoo called Journey to Churchill. Visitors can wander under a water-filled tunnel and observe the big creatures swimming by, only not right now. The exhibit opened in early July, but last month the tunnel had to be closed and the water drained because the bears had been busy.

It seems they managed to chew their way through some of the silicone sealant. Talk about resourceful, and what an appetite!

So far, Winnipeg has managed to escape being visited by animal do-gooders like Bob Barker, but it’s early yet. There was a time that polar bears were thought to be endangered, when chemicals like DDT got into their food chain. They’re still listed as vulnerable, with global warming now thought to be the biggest threat to their future.

But the mighty creatures have proven to be amazingly resourceful. If we could read their minds, who knows what we might learn.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.