Trick or treating in most Manitoba communities each Oct. 31 is a very safe activity that is taken for granted. Not so in Churchill, where mid-October marks the beginning of bear season in Churchill, with the pre-freeze up congregation of polar bears in and around Churchill waiting for the sea ice to form on the Hudson Bay.
Churchill, a town of 800 residents, is situated on the edge of the Hudson Bay, and during bear season both the population of people and polar bears increases significantly. Due to winds and ocean currents, the ice forms earlier near the mouth of the Churchill River and polar bears know this. As more bears arrive, more bears are pushed closer to town. Usually by peak bear season, a bear can be found in or along the edge of town pretty much every night. The residents know how to conduct their day-to-day business, but bears do present a safety concern, particularly after dark, when little kids dressed in an array of costumes focused on collecting candy and polar bears are not a good mix.
For the past 15 years the Churchill Canadian Ranger patrol has assisted local authorities with providing a safe community for the kids trick or treating on Halloween. This year was no different, says Patrol Commander Camille Hamilton. “We will have a number of Canadian Rangers participating who will provide a perimeter patrol of the town so kids can enjoy themselves.” They, along with Town of Churchill employees, the volunteer fire department, Polar Bear Alert Conservation Officers and the RCMP are equipped to report and scare away any bears that attempt to enter the town limits.
Hudson Bay has approximately 1,500 resident polar bears and this year they have wandered as far inland as Gillam. For the first time in Gillam’s history, there have been sightings of a polar bear very close to town, so the Canadian Ranger Patrol in Gillam have taken some lessons from their counterparts in Churchill and assisted local authorities in providing a security patrol as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of the little ghosts and goblins on Halloween.
It is acts of community involvement, like this, that build community spirit and develop a strong relationship between the local Canadian Ranger Patrol and the towns they live in.