You know you want to see them. You know where to see them. But when to see them? The most famous residents of Churchill, Manitoba, polar bears are one of the “new” Big Five and on many adventurous travelers’ bucket lists. Even here in the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” it’s impossible to predict nature, but if it’s polar bears you seek, here’s the best information on when to glimpse them (but remember, conditions may vary). 

Early Season

As the fall colors start to brighten up the tundra in September (sometimes as early as July and August), polar bears start to arrive from the western Hudson Bay region. The weather is warm enough to enjoy exploring the town of Churchill. There are generally fewer sightings at this time, but you’ll likely see other wildlife, including Arctic foxes, Arctic hares, snowy owls, gyrfalcons and caribou. 


Photo by Susan Tuckey, Penguins2PolarBears - November 2018. This would have been our first spotting and just minutes into our safari - very exciting!

As the temperature continues to drop in October and November, more polar bears arrive in the area. Snow starts to fall and although the bears will generally hunker down to avoid extreme storm conditions, you’re more likely to see them in the wild than in the early season. The cold temperatures typically bring about higher activity levels for the polar bears. 

Late Season

As the edges of Hudson Bay turn to ice, the bears get more and more active as their winter home “magically” appears. Typically, the highest concentration of bears are seen in the week or so leading up to the bay completely freezing over. The bears approach the edges to test their weight and prey on unwitting seals. 

What You Can Expect for Weather 

If you’re seeking polar bears, you already know it’s going to be cold. But just how cold? Let’s look at the typical weather patterns and climate in the Churchill area during polar bear season. 

How Cold Will It Be? Very. The temperatures will range from -17°C to -43°C (0°F to 45°F) (and feels colder with the wind chill). 

How Cold Will I Be? You’ll stay comfortable in a heated polar rover vehicle. However, you’re going to want to access the observation deck, so you should wear plenty of layers for the temperature range stated above. Due to the deck door opening and closing, the interior temperature will be between 1°C to 15°C (30°F and 60°F). 

Can I Get Around Churchill in the Winter? Of course, but be prepared for slippery streets and sidewalks, consistently covered in ice and snow. Pack a traction device for your shoes or boots to enable you to walk around safely.  

Ready to meet some polar bears? Let’s chat