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Polar bear jail

Coordinates: 58°45′13.25″N 94°4′25.76″W / 58.7536806°N 94.0738222°W / 58.7536806; -94.0738222
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Polar Bear Holding Facility
Polar bear jail is located in Manitoba
Polar bear jail
General information
LocationChurchill, Manitoba
Coordinates58°45′13.25″N 94°4′25.76″W / 58.7536806°N 94.0738222°W / 58.7536806; -94.0738222

The polar bear jail (officially known as the Polar Bear Holding Facility) is a special building in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada where polar bears that are considered troublesome or dangerous are isolated until they can be relocated.[1]

Before the facility was established, polar bears which were considered dangerous were shot. The jail was established in 1982.[2] According to another source, it was created in 1983, after a person on the street was mauled by a bear.[3] The facility is the subject of the poem "Churchill Bear Jail" by Salish Chief Victor A. Charlo.[4]

Keeping the animals


Initially, the facility had 20 cells, which could hold 16 single bears and four family groups.[1] The bears could be held from two to 30 days – if a bear had been captured repeatedly, the term may have been extended.[3] The premise is that extended captivity would create a sense of danger for the bears so that they will be reluctant to approach the town. The bears are not fed during the captivity. Since the bears' natural life cycle involves long periods of fasting, their bodies are adapted to going without food for an extended time.[5]

Dangerous bears are tranquilized when captured and are marked with a bright paint on the neck. Closer to the winter, when the ice in the Hudson Bay has set, the bears are released. They are tranquilized again and transported by helicopter far from the town.[3]

In 2014, the jail was extended to 28 cells.[6] The inhabitants of Churchill still have to be careful outside, as the outskirts of the city are said to be visited by about a thousand polar bears in the summer.[6][7] With the ice gone, they are unable to hunt their primary prey – seals – and, suffering from hunger, they can approach the town and threaten the inhabitants.

There are signs cautioning "Polar Bear Alert" on the shores of the Hudson Bay and Churchill River,[3] and anyone that spots a polar bear can call a designated phone number, upon which some workers of the Department of Natural Resources will come out to catch the bear.

Mural on 'Bear Jail'


  1. ^ a b "Churchill Pictures: The Polar Bear "Jail"". www.bears.org. Archived from the original on 30 August 2021. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  2. ^ James A., Wilkerson; Moore, Ernest E.; Zafren, Ken (2010). Medicine for Mountaineering: And Other Wilderness Activities. The Mountaineers Books. p. 323. ISBN 9781594853937. Archived from the original on 1 July 2023. Retrieved 7 May 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d "Into the Wilds of the Canadian Arctic: On the Polar Bear Trail". 4 March 2016. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  4. ^ Harrison, Brady (2009). All Our Stories Are Here: Critical Perspectives on Montana Literature. U of Nebraska Press. p. 30. ISBN 978-0803222779. Archived from the original on 1 July 2023. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Complete Polar Bear Facts". 30 May 2014. Archived from the original on 30 May 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  6. ^ a b "В канадском городе Черчилль расширяют тюрьму для белых медведей" [The Canadian town of Churchill is expanding its polar bear jail]. newsmake.net (in Russian). Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  7. ^ Nelson, Zed (10 April 2023). "A jail for wayward polar bears? You must be in Churchill, Canada…". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 13 November 2023. Retrieved 29 November 2023.