Northern lights shine over a forest landscape

Photo: Simon Gee / Polar Bears International

Northern Lights in Churchill

By Dave Allcorn, Guest Contributor



21 Jan 2022

Winter has entombed the town of Churchill, Canada. The frozen Hudson Bay is like a fortress of sharp, icy sculptures—hostile, barren, and lifeless … unless you’re a polar bear, of course, in which case the sea ice is your bountiful realm.

As the deep freeze prevails and the howling winds blast through the hunting grounds of the polar bear, we can only imagine what life is like for the bears, far from land on the frozen sea. 

Although daylight is slowly returning to these northerly latitudes, there is still an abundance of darkness, ideal for the mysterious aurora, the forever-dazzling northern lights—a hauntingly beautiful dance in an eerie, frozen silence.

Snow-covered sea ice seen past a tree-lined shore in Churchill

Photo: Dave Allcorn / Polar Bears International

Hudson Bay

Winter is the best time to witness this awesome celestial phenomenon, and Churchill is one of the best places to experience them. For those of us who live here, it may be cold, it may be windy, but that’s what parkas are for! So, I encourage you all to look up to the northern skies and watch for the twisting, swirling greens of the magical northern lights.

From February 1st through March 15th, the Polar Bears International House will be open to welcome visitors who arrive to see the northern lights (hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 pm Central Time). If you can’t see the display in person, you can catch them on our Northern Lights Cam in partnership with

Meanwhile, on land, despite the intense cold, nature continues to thrive!

Arctic fox running through the landscape in Churchill

Photo: Dave Allcorn / Polar Bears International

Arctic fox

Arctic foxes, which have seldom been seen in the past year, recently made an appearance near town. It’s so much fun to watch these iconic Arctic creatures bounce around so daintily in their perfect winter fur, constantly searching for food. Their fur is very well suited to this extreme environment, being the best insulation of any mammal. Have you ever seen an Arctic fox shivering? The answer would be “no.”

Red foxes are in town too. They’re a fair bit larger than the Arctic foxes and, therefore, can typically outcompete the smaller Arctic foxes. However, recently, there have been some interesting interactions between the two fox species. It seems as if they all get along if there’s plenty of food around.

A red fox and an Arctic fox hang out together in the shadow of a building

Photo: Dave Allcorn / Polar Bears International

A red fox and an Arctic fox in town

Although the Subarctic tundra is not exactly a bird watcher’s paradise in mid-winter, there are some year-round feathered residents. Willow ptarmigan, house sparrows, and ravens are spotted daily on a walk to the coast, while inland toward the trees, there are Canada jays (whisky Jacks) and the occasional gyrfalcon. 

Whatever the weather in Churchill, it’s certainly worth bundling up in your winter layers to head out and explore. Lying down in your parka on top of a wind-sculptured snowdrift to watch the wonders of the northern sky is truly magical. The aurora can look even more mysterious through the window of frozen breath on your icy eyebrows. Keep looking up!

Northern Lights Cam

Watch northern lights ripple across the night sky in Churchill, Manitoba—best viewed in February and March.