How to Get Attacked by a Polar Bear

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Churchill, Manitoba

When I first started talking to Travel Manitoba about coming to Churchill I was warned that this was not polar bear season. In the dead of winter you can head out in the safety of a Tundra Buggy and see tons of them. But this was summer and it was beluga whale season.

And believe me the beluga whales are amazing and going in the summer is amazing. But there is still this little bit of hope that you may see a polar bear.


Yes I’m now getting greedy.


So when locals told us that there were some bears in the area I was getting excited. Polar bears in Canada get off the ice floats for summer but always begin to migrate toward Churchill because it is where the water first freezes and they are desperate to get on ice so they can hunt again.

polar bear warning sign

This is also why Churchill is very serious about safety in the town. Although it is patrolled, there are only a couple of streets you should walk on and you should never go down to the beach alone because if you are between the water and a bear you are done for.

Our Frontiers North guide also told us that none of the homes or cars are locked just in case you see one and need to get inside. And if one sees you, as you are running for your life throw off your hat, scarf or other pieces of clothing in hopes that the bear may stop to sniff it.


Most of all, don’t ignore the signs.


But that is exactly what happened our first day. A visitor decided to go to the beach, walking by the signs that said not to and he saw a bear, but then the bear smelled him and started after him. Luckily a conservation truck was coming by, got between the guy and bear and the man ran into a home.

Here is a video of him explaining the story, alas I wasn’t able to embed it on my site. But it includes the video he took while the whole thing was happening.

The story ends sadly. This bear was old, hungry and hadn’t eaten for a whole and got aggressive with the patrol so they had to shoot it.

It’s not something they like to do, in fact I have awoken to blasting caps going off scaring young polar bears away. For the most part they stay out of town.


But I still wanted to see one…from a distance.


And then I did. From a far far distance needing binoculars I saw one near the water. Too far to take a photo. Then we moved on to another location and saw 3 white dots even farther away. So exciting.

But Frontiers North knows as exciting as that is, it’s not close enough so today while we were out with the belugas we made a detour to a point where a couple of bears had been seen.

polar bear Churchill Manitoba Canada

And here’s the photo.

Sure it’s a bit blurry. It was taken from a distance but that is how I wanted to meet one here.

I didn’t want the locals to be telling another story of a tourist that didn’t listen.






Join the Conversation

  1. thats awesome that you were ae to see polar bears and belugas during your stay in Churchill! I got to get up north, looks like fun!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I cannot believe you are from Saskatchewan and never considered going north but then came out east!

  2. Anthony @ Positive World Travel says:

    I can’t believe you saw one! It is one of my dreams to see a Polar bear! You are so lucky. I would do the same as you and keep a good distance away. Still a great pic anyway!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It was pretty cool even from a distance, actually probably much better from a distance.

  3. Sebastian says:

    How great is that! I hope I can see one in nature too one day. Polar bears are incredible animals and very beautiful, especially when they are young!

    But it looks weird to see one on rocks and not on ice 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know, but hoping to go back one day to see them on the ice and tundra

  4. Pete Heck says:

    I never like hearing of stories where the animal has to be put down. Especially on the account of someone who didn’t listen or read the signs.

    Glad you got to see one safely from the distance though. I hope to experience myself one day. Fab pic.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thanks Pete, definitely something all Canadians should see.

  5. Jade Johnston says:

    Ah thats amazing! And also scary about the bear attacks…. its so interesting that all the cars and homes are unlocked. But then again, I dont even lock my home in Winnipeg and it is the murder capital of Canada

    Jade Johnston |

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      What? I didn’t know that, Winnipeg looks so nice and sweet.

  6. Sounds great. I am glad that you had a beautiful and safe experience.

    The other day I ready a story about Polar Bear attacking a tourist in Norway and finally they put down the animal. That was very tragic. I hope more people realize the safety accepts like you said and be cautious. Respecting the wild.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      That was what I really appreciated about Churchill, everyone was very aware that they were in the wild, unfortunately this guy did not.

  7. Good on you! Irresponsible people end up getting others into trouble other than themselves and unfortunately it was this bear that was not allowed to go quietly into the night. (All because he wanted to show his friends what a huge sod he was.)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Ha, this is actually something terrible to share but a lot of the old bears get attacked by the younger ones. I guess it’s the circle of life. Still gross.

  8. I’m so glad you got to see what you wanted to. That stupid tourist who caused the bear to be put down should be banned from visiting again, ever, but I guess that’s not possible.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      No but hopefully he learned his lesson…albeit the hard way.

  9. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    They are so magnificent! So great that you were able to see one, even for away, during the “off-season.” SO sad that they had to put one down! 🙁

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know everyone seemed to be really down about it. It was an old bear so death was coming but they never like to be the initiator of it.

  10. They’re so cute! Polar bears are awesome. So are Grizzlies. I’ve always wanted a pet bear…

    p.s. thanks for being a responsible tourist! 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I am sure that guy may tell you they aren’t so cute 🙂

  11. OMG! That would scare the living daylights out of me! Though, come to think of it, I’ve camped in black bear and poisonous snake country…

    But it must’ve been amazing to see polar bears in the wild, and beluga whales, too!!

    I’ll be sure to not become *that* person if I’m ever in polar bear country.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      All bears scare me, no matter the colour.

  12. Donna Hull says:

    Glad you spotted your polar bear, even in the off-season. I want to travel to Manitoba in the winter to see the polar bears even though I know it will be freezing cold.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I hate the cold but I must admit I really want to go back in winter now.

  13. Totally awesome! Wish I had been with you!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      No tacos in Churchill 🙁

  14. Christy @ Technosyncratic says:

    I (like most people) think polar bears are gorgeous… but I’ve heard before that they’re VERY dangerous animals. Not so cute and cuddly in the wild!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Like most bears they aren’t the cuddly animals we wish that they would be, especially when hungry!

  15. These have been some really fascinating posts, Ayngelina – I didn’t realise there was this sort of stuff to see in Canada! I’m definitely going to include Manitoba on my Canadian itinerary when I finally make it up that way.

    1. Jeremy Branham says:

      Ayngelina’s excitement aside, I don’t know why people want to get so close to polar bears. This isn’t the only incident where they have killed and maimed humans. I’ll enjoy the photos but have absolutely no desire to get close to one.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Agreed. Churchill as a town was not created for tourism but because it is a port and currently sends wheat to Europe. The people are really careful to respect the boundaries of nature, which I think is important because at one time all of our towns and cities had bears and wildlife in them but urbanization has now left them in zoos, national parks and the few odd purely wild areas like the Canadian North.

    2. Ayngelina Author says:

      I hadn’t heard of that but I do know that starving bears are the aggressive ones, in the photo I shared the bear didn’t want to be bothered and walked away from us.

  16. Emily in Chile says:

    Blurry or not, that photo’s amazing! And I’m glad you didn’t have to run for your life to get it.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      me too!

  17. Jeremy Branham says:

    Polar bears – beautiful, menacing, and one of the meanest, most aggressive animals on the face of the earth!! Not sure if you have read the story of the two guys traveling around Norway/the arctic but the story of the polar bear dragging a guy out of his tent by the head is SCARY!!! Polar Bears don’t mess around and the guy that got too close was an idiot! If you are scared of bears, you NEVER want to encounter a polar bear!

    Ayngelina, you are much braver than me!

  18. Agh! That was a close call. You took a really beautiful photo.

    Funny how most towns have a unique characteristic that people there are so used to, but seems so exotic to outsiders. I mean, really… POLAR BEARS? Wow. Exotic Churchill, Manitoba 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know I guess you are accustomed to what is in your own back yard.

  19. The Travel Chica says:

    You Canucks are brave and slightly crazy to live in towns where people have to seriously be on the lookout for polar bears.

    Very cool that you got to see one.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yeah Churchill is a really special place.

  20. Camels & Chocolate says:

    Are you serious? I went all the way to the freakin’ Arctic Circle in the height of polar bear season and didn’t see a one! JEALOUS.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Really, where did you go?

      Churchill has lots of them because the river which enters the Hudson Bay freezes first so they just know instinctively to go there.

  21. Matthew Karsten says:

    That first picture is pretty scary! I wouldn’t want to meet that menacing gang of fluff alone in a dark alley of Churchill… 😯

  22. Hogga aka @TheHogga says:

    Good advertising – every time I see a polar bear I think of coca cola

    Sad they had to shoot it

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Hmm I am pretty sure if you saw a polar bear it would not hand you a coca cola, well at least I am not willing to test that theory out.

  23. adventureswithben says:

    What a great story!

  24. Linda ~ Journey Jottings says:

    Fluffy toy images and cute representations in adverts belies their carnivorous ferociousness – As Megan links to above, there’s just been an horrendous polar bear incident in Norway ~ Respecting their territory, as you did, is crucial.
    Fabulous photo ~ Wonderful 🙂

  25. Amazing. Have you ever heard me talk of any “bucket list”? No. Ew. But if I had one, seeing a polar bear would be on it!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s not overrated at all , but the belugas were much more fun.

  26. Seattle Dredge says:

    ahh-I’m soo jealous! That’s amazing 😀 😀

  27. Mark Wiens says:

    Wow, incredible sight Ayngelina – that must have been an adrenaline filled experience!

  28. That’s so cool, glad you had a safe experience and capture the last photo.

  29. Andy Jarosz says:

    This post brings back happy memories. We travelled with Frontiers North in 1999 to Churchill but in October at the height of the migration. So we did go out in tundra buggies and we did see 40+ bears in 3 days. But no beluga whales at that time! So I reckon you win 🙂
    Seriously, those guys do look after your safety and providing you listen to their advice then you’re going to stay safe.
    Your pictures make me want to go back (I spent my birthday in Churchill and saw many bears and my first sighting of the Northern Lights – a special day!)

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I don’t know…I am very jealous that you were out in the Tundra Buggies during polar bear season.

      I also missed out on Northern Lights, as a Canadian I have NEVER seen them so you are one up on me.

  30. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler says:

    That’s a sad story! I don’t understand why people don’t pay attention to signs either. I would love to see a Polar bear from a very safe distance.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Seeing nature without fear is key!

  31. Great story sad ending for the bear. Very nice photo even if it is a little blurry. At least you listened and aren’t on of those that avoid signs and then get attacked and the bear ends up paying for it.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I would far rather that photo any day, or to go in the winter in the safety of a Tundra Buggy!

  32. I’m always confused by people who ignore instructions. When I was in Yellowstone they told us a woman had been killed trying to put her child on the back of a buffalo. Thanks goodness the little boy was fine.

    I think your photo is from the perfect distance anyway!

  33. Raymond @ Man On The Lam says:

    Drat! So very jealous of you right now… 🙂

    So lucky you were able to see one!

  34. Meg | One Love Meg says:

    Polar bears were always my favorite animals until I watched a discovery channel show that said they were very mean animals. How could those cute fluffy things be mean? What a cool experience. I hope to see some in my day!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Sometimes they eat each other, very mean animals…

  35. Scott - Quirky Travel Guy says:

    I’m dying to see a polar bear when I head north, but I will have to keep reminding myself of how dangerous they are… the cuteness is deceptive.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Just don’t reach your hand out to pet them 🙂

  36. Wow! I would love to see a polar bear. I wonder how often people ignore the signs and head down there.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well they have only had to put a few down in the last few decades, usually fire crackers scare the bears away.

  37. Ayngelina Author says:

    At least he was at the end of his life, but that may have been why he ventured into the town.

  38. Jools Stone says:

    Wow, lucky you! You may have heard but only last week a British schoolkid on an expedition trip got killed by one in Norway. Apparently the trip wire around their camp failed. Great picture too.

  39. People are so funny not paying attention to signs. It’s the same as at Peggys cove and the “don’t walk on the edge, undertow”. They really mean it!!!

  40. Lily (Explore for a Year) says:

    Wow, great photo of the bear!

    I’ve started making a list of things I should do/see/experience as a good Canadian and you just inspired me to add polar bears to the list:
    – See a polar bear
    – See a moose
    – See some whales (west coast or east coast)
    – Snow shoe, downhill ski…

    It’s going to be Lonely Planet time when I get home this winter!

    – Lily

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Since going to Churchill I have actually decided I want to go farther north as well, the land is really spectacular.

  41. Wow, what an incredible sight.

    That’s kind of what annoyed me last week – A school took a bunch of kids on a trip to Iceland right in the middle of polar bears’ natural habitat. A bear ended up attacking the group and mauled a 16-year-old boy to death.

    It must be so awful for his family, I really do feel bad for them, but what astounds me is the fact that the teachers who were with them and a bunch of people in the media are claiming to be “shocked” by the incident? Really? If you disturb a polar bear’s natural habitat, they’re going to strike out.

    I think way too many people see polar bears and panda bears as completely different, friendly things and don’t realise that their temperaments can be exactly the same as a grizzly. 😛

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I would never go out camping in Churchill! They are very aware of the constant danger but at the same time really respectful to nature and try not to disturb it as much as possible. But you couldn’t pay me enough to stay overnight outside there.

  42. Amazing!!!

  43. That’s a beautiful picture. And wise move not being the tourist who didn’t listen. 🙂

  44. So you got to see belugas AND polar bears? You are so spoiled. 😛

    But no, seriously – that’s so cool! And the photo is great!

  45. Cornelius Aesop says:

    Ha, warning signs are just invitations for a good time… @(^_^)@ like the ones about monkeys flinging poo and polar bears eating you.

  46. Mack Reynolds says:

    very awesome story. i know this is going to sound ignorant, but i thought polar bears only lived in the north pole. i know, i should probably read more. glad you got to see them out of season. when there’s a will there’s a way.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I wouldn’t worry about it, Churchill is in the Arctic so the North Pole isn’t too far off, relatively speaking.

  47. I wanna see a polar bear!!!! but like you, I’d like to see it from a distance!!!! 🙂

  48. So cool! Would love to see that part of our country

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It really inspired me to see more of the country.

  49. DTravelsRound says:

    A town where they don’t lock doors … just in case of a polar bear chase! Wow. Great shot!!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You can also leave your bicycle out without fear of it being stolen because if it goes missing everyone knows about it!

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