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The Polar Bear Jail of Churchill

Churchill, Manitoba, is a unique town. A thousand miles north of Winnipeg, it sits on the shores of Hudson Bay. It is home to about 900 people, but they are dominated by polar bears, as Churchill is right on their migration route.

Churchill grew from a small remote outpost to a thriving commercial port engaging in fur trade to a strategic US military base all in the span of four hundred years. After World War 2, Churchill became part of the Canadian signals intelligence network, and later the site for rocket research for atmospheric studies. Churchill was nearly annihilated when the British government decided to test nuclear weapons there, but then chose Australia instead.

Today, Churchill is mostly a polar bears’ town, with nearly 800 of them living in the vicinity. That number swells to 10,000 during the hunting season. That’s the best time to watch polar bears. Tour operators take visitors to the town’s fringes on giant buggies from where they can watch the animals in the wild. The vehicle’s height keeps the occupants safe and beyond the reach of even the largest bear.

To live in Churchill, one has exercise caution at all times. There are warning signs posted all around the town reminding people not to leave the town’s borders or venture into bear sites. Many people keep the doors of their houses and vehicles unlocked, should anyone need to make a quick escape.

The residents of Churchill used to shoot polar bears that wandered into town, but now they put them in jail instead. It's not a pleasant experience for the bears, but they aren't there to be punished, rather to discourage them from ever wanting anything to do with humans. Read about the polar bear jail at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Flickr user Emma)


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