Churchill, Canada, is a town that sits on the edge of the Hudson Bay as one of the northernmost towns in Manitoba. The closest neighboring town (and that term is used loosely) is roughly 250 miles away to the south, Thompson, while Manitoba's capital sits 620 miles away. That means that Churchill is very isolated and remote in the sense that there are no neighboring towns close enough to rush in should they be needed, and this also means that wildlife in Churchill is something its residents need to be aware of. In particular, the polar bears that the region is so well-known for. This town hasn't been given the nickname 'Polar Bear Capital of the World' for no reason, and it's these migrating bears who make it so year after year.

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It's estimated that roughly 10,000 people come from all over the world between the months of October and November to see the polar bears make their way through Churchill. However, for those who call this town home, they don't just witness their migration patterns - they become one with them. It's not uncommon to witness these bears, who are also some of the top predators in the world, navigate their way around town, scavenging through alleyway trash cans, peering into house windows, and making their way down snow-covered streets.

The Polar Bear Alert Program

This program was initiated with the intent to help both the town and the bears as sightings increase during the migration season. At one point in time, it was routine to shoot at the bears, but that's not the case anymore, according to an article written by The Guardian. Rather than hurt the bears, the goal of the Polar Bear Alert Program is to exhaust all efforts to remove the bear from the area, safely, before resorting to more extreme measures for the safety of Churchill's residents. Caution is advised when moving around Churchill, especially at night when bears are hard to spot and there's potential for running into one unexpectedly. If a bear is sighted, people are encouraged to call 675-BEAR in order to report it.

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As the first line of defense, bear traps are set up around the perimeters of the town where bears are most likely to make their way in. These traps are set with seal scent which helps to draw the bear in and away from town, as seals are what they actively hunt off the coast. If a bear is found in a trap, it's then taken to a holding facility where it's kept for 30 days, alternately known by the locals as 'polar bear jail.' The bear is kept there without routine feeding, which is done so that the bear associates coming near the town with a negative connotation. After the 30 days are up, the bear is released in an area far from town or out onto the sea ice if it's late in the winter season.

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In the event that a bear does make its way into town, secondary measures are put into place. If the bear is causing trouble for residents, the first response of the police is to firecracker shells, which should encourage the bear to run away on its own due to the loud, unsettling noise they create. Once a bear begins moving out of town, the police will then follow it with their cars to ensure that it has left the vicinity. If a bear repeatedly comes back, then it's taken to a holding facility and treated like a bear who has fallen into one of the outlying traps.

Life For Residents In Churchill

To say that Churchill residents are cautious would be an understatement. It's not often that many people have to live with wild animals in such close proximity as the polar bears in this region and with that comes a higher level of awareness. Churchill residents are known for constantly looking around corners before making a full turn as well as being extra careful when venturing out at night. They go to extreme lengths to avoid anywhere a bear could potentially be lurking, especially alleyways, anywhere along the riverbank, and the willows out past the town line.

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Additionally, many cars and even houses are left unlocked in Churchill in the event that a quick escape must be made from a bear. In this town, the residents aren't just friendly with each other - they watch out for one another, especially when the polar bears are on the prowl.

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