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Wapusk Polar Bears
DECEMBER 2005
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In some cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.
Photograph by Mark Thiessen



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Wapusk Polar Bears

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    I photographed my first collared lemming while I was in Wapusk. Every day for ten days it showed up for about 20 minutes outside my cabin. This was a real treat because lemmings are extremely difficult to photograph. They're not only very shy animals, but they're also very small—about six inches (15 centimeters) long—and fast runners.
    In the winter the temperature in Wapusk can get down to -40ºF, and that meant I had to pile on fleece jackets, pants, and a heavy down parka with a big hood. The wind sometimes blew so hard that I couldn't even leave my cabin. The summers weren't always that much better. I always had to have an entire range of clothes on hand because the weather could change drastically within a day.
    There had been rumors of a barren-ground grizzly bear sighting north of Churchill. But since this species is extremely rare in the area, I didn't believe the stories—until the bear showed up outside my door.
    One night my wife and I stayed with our guide Melissa Gibbens, a park ranger, in a remote cabin. And we had just gone to bed when we heard her yell,  "Bear!" So my wife and I jumped out of bed, and sure enough there was a bear outside our cabin, staring at us. Initially, I had been so concerned about our safety that I didn't bother to grab my camera. But I wish I would have because by the time I realized everything was OK, the ranger had already shooed the bear away with a loud horn. Who knows if I'll ever get to see a grizzly bear in that area again.
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