Polar Bear

The Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) is the largest and most formidable land predator on the planet, though to categorise it as a land animal does scant justice to how well adapted it is to the marine environment. It is not uncommon for adult males to weight in excess of 1,500 pounds (700 kilos), though the average is around 1,000 pounds ( 450 kilos), while females are about half that size. The polar bear’s great weight is due in no small part to the 4 inch (10cm) thick layer of fat it stores to keep warm. It is well adapted to life on the Arctic ice and its famous white coat is in fact made up of hollow, translucent hairs which act as excellent insulators, trapping radiating body heat from the black skin beneath. Light reflected from the coat gives the illusion of white colouration. In fact that only parts of a polar bear that radiate heat are the eyes and nose, and when sleeping it covers these with its fur covered paws.

Let WildlifeTrails take you on an adventure of a lifetime to observe this majestic animal in its natural habitat. We offer tours to Churchill, Manitoba in October and November when large numbers of polar bears congregate around Cape Churchill waiting for the first sea ice to form so that they can head offshore to hunt seals through the winter. It is also possible to see polar bears in the Churchill area in July and August – along with Beluga Whales – though sightings are less frequent and reliable. Our other polar bear destination in Nunavut, 50 miles inside the Arctic circle, offers a much longer season with boat based viewing from July to October, with September and October producing the best sightings, and for the seriously adventurous, skidoo (snowmobile) excursions in the winter with our expert Inuit guides.

It is widely believed that polar bears evolved from a small enclave of grizzly bears isolated by glaciers near Siberia in the Pleistocene period, about 200,000 years ago, and their status as a separate species is hotly contested in some scientific circles. The physical differences between these closely related species are however dramatic, and apart from the obvious differences in size and colouration, the Polar Bear has a more elongated head and body, and shorter claws and much larger feet adapted to walking on ice and swimming long distances. They are strong swimmers able to achieve speeds of up to 6mph, and have been known to cross large expanses of water in excess of 100 miles.

Unlike his omnivorous brown cousin, Nanuuq, as the great white bear is known to the Inuit of Arctic Canada, is an out and out carnivore with a sense of smell so acute that it can detect a seal several miles away. It is estimated that a polar bear must consume an entire seal each week to maintain its fat reserves, and its preferred prey is the Ringed Seal, though in lean times it will tackle just about anything it encounters. It is an incredibly powerful animal, capable of hunting prey as a large as a Beluga Whale or the tusked Walrus, probably the only animal it really fears. Like most bears it is very calorie conscience and eats only skin and blubber, leaving the leaner red meat for the Arctic Fox (Alopex lagopus) which depends on polar bear kills during the winter.

Canada has by far the largest polar bear population in the world, estimated at 15,000. Russia and Norway have 5,000 each, and Alaska 2,000. Breeding usually takes place in April, but as with other bears females are able to delay implantation of fertilized eggs until September or October, and then only if she has accumulated sufficient fat reserves to sustain her and her cubs. She then gives birth in a winter den in December, usually to 1 or 2 cubs. They stay with her for 30 months, nursing for the first 18-24, longer than any other bear cubs. For this reason females tend to give birth only every third year. Polar bears reach maturity at between 3 & 5 years of age and live on average for 25 years in the wild, with some individuals reaching 35.

Polar Bear Special Arctic Cruise

Arctic Cruise with a focus on seeing Polar Bears: Within a wildlife cruise around Spitsbergen there are known areas where Polar Bear sightings are more common. These may be haul-out areas for their favourite prey, such as Ringed Seals or Walrus, or in the pack ice. This expedition cruise will visit all these key areas, and combine visits to beautiful fjords and glaciers and you search for that special Polar Bear sighting amongst the atmospheric pack ice. This is an Arctic Cruise for those looking to maximise their encounters with Polar Bears but also to keep an eye on the budget.

Style - Bespoke Wildlife
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 9
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£4500
Life on the Edge in Nunavut Canada

The Floe Edge in the Canadian Arctic, is truly remarkable environment, where each year over a small 3-4 week period, we have a chance to see some species which are normally found far out in the Arctic Ocean. At this time of year, we have the migration of both Walrus and Beluga Whales, so these are two of the species we will be looking for. Taking the lead from our local Inuit Guides we follow the floe edge for days of discovery, possible narwhal watching and the chance to see a variety of sea birds, polar bears, seals and possibly beluga and bowhead whales. Since we will experience close to 24 hours of sun at this time of year; there will be long full days looking to find and photographic animals perfectly adapted to survive in this challenging environment

Style - Pioneer
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 8
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£8975
Budget Churchill Polar Bear Tour

We have been designing polar bear tours in Churchill since our first visit in 2003, when we used a combination of the famous train from Winnipeg and flights to create an early season polar bear tour that will live long in the memory. Because we are an ethical operator we do not want to encourage ‘weekend’ polar bear safaris, which have a heavy climate cost compared to the number of days travellers stay in this frontier town. Our solution, which has taken years of planning and does require early booking, is to book all elements of the polar bear tour in Churchill separately and pre-book the accommodation which often sells out a year before hand. By designing a longer stay in the polar bear capital of the world, we are one of the few companies able to offer 3 Tundra Buggy tours for a budget polar bear safari in Churchill.

Style - Pioneer
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 8
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£3500
Arctic Kingdom of the Polar Bear

Wildlife Trails has more than 15 years experience of providing private tailor-made tours to the High Arctic; organising exciting and adventurous wildlife tours to Inuit communities such as Qikitarjuaq, Igloolick and Repluse Bay. These are not tours for clients expecting deluxe accommodation or wildlife sightings ‘to order’. These tours are for people wanting to get a genuine insight into the Inuit hunting and artistic culture, and the chance to take a boat safari with Inuit guides who have eyes like Eagles – an experience you will never forget!

Style - Pioneer
Duration (Excl. Flights) - 7
Activity Level
When to Go
  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug
  • Sep
  • Oct
  • Nov
  • Dec
Price (Excl. flights)
£3620