Safety at Wat'Chee

Wat’Chee Expeditions is owned and operated by Michael Ralph Spence, Administrative Manager and Morris Douglas Spence, Operations Manager. The Head Office is at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Field operations are expedited from a base camp at Wat’Chee Lodge.

This info has been provided by Wat’Chee Expeditions to ensure the safety and health of it’s guests and employees while living and travelling in areas populated by polar bears and other wild life-forms endemic to sub-arctic ecosystems.

The safety precautions described pertain to encounters with all forms of wildlife.


Our priority is the safety and health of our guests and employees while participating in our programs at Wat’chee Lodge and excursions into the Churchill Wildlife Management Area and Wapusk National Park.

  1. Upon arrival at the Lodge you will be presented with a “Polar Bear Safety Brochure”.
  2. Guests at the Lodge will inform a staff member when they wish to leave the building. You will be accompanied by a Guide at all times.
  3. Inform a Guide immediately when you sight a polar bear or any other wildlife.
  4. When operating a snow machine, you must remain in close proximity to a guided expedition under the direct supervision of a Guide.
  5. Do not leave a vehicle until directed to do so. Proceed to the “safe location” designated by a Guide.
  6. Do not advance beyond the “safe distance line” (a line drawn in the snow by a Guide) at the site chosen for viewing, filming and photographing polar bear family groups.
  7. Leave your position immediately when instructed to do so. Proceed to the “safe location” as directed by the Guide. Leave your personal belongings behind when instructed to do so.
  8. Do not exit vehicles or the Lodge until Polar Bear Monitors have verbally confirmed that the area is safe.
  9. Feeding any form of wildlife is strictly prohibited.
  10. Disposal of toxic substances, non-hazardous waste, including human waste, is not permitted except in designated areas.
  11. Inform a staff member immediately should a medical condition or injury affect your ability to safely and comfortably continue your stay at the Lodge or participate in an excursion.

Individuals not complying with safety procedures become a liability to everyone. Non-compliance will result in removal of the individual(s) from the Lodge or termination of the expedition.


In the history of Wat’Chee Expeditions, there has never been a wildlife/human encounter resulting in injury to guests, employees or polar bears. There has never been a wildlife/human encounter resulting in a warning shot being fired to deter an animal or an animal killed.

Circumstances vary with each incident that may result in human injury. In a polar bear attack the objective is to stop the encounter to prevent further injury to the victim. The following describes the appropriate actions and the order in which to execute them:

  1. Stop the encounter. It may be necessary to kill the bear. Extreme caution must be taken to prevent further injury to the victim.
  2. Ensure that there are no other bears near the victim.
  3. Administer First Aid.
  4. Call for assistance and determine the best way to evacuate the victim. Depending on the severity of the injuries, helicopter evacuation may be necessary. If injuries appear to be life threatening, request a medical team to accompany the helicopter.
  5. The Lodge will be monitoring the radio and will assist in initiating emergency actions. The Lodge will report the incident to the Wat’Chee Expeditions office in Churchill and Parks Canada.
  6. A group supervisor should be designated from other expedition participants and/or employees. Other guests should be kept well away from the site of the incident and the helicopter landing site and taken back to the Lodge after the victim has been evacuated.
  7. Everyone must remain vigilant for other polar bears in the vicinity.
  8. In the event of a fatality, the R.C.M.P.will be notified immediately. The site will be secured and turned over to the R.C.M.P. upon their arrival.

Communication Systems and Emergency Contacts

Wat’Chee Expeditions utilizes the following communications systems:

  • satellite phones (portable long range)
  • two way radios (portable short range)
  • mobile radios (fixed vehicle units)

MTS fleetnet phone – (204)783-0903

Lodge PhoneTone – 714171

These systems provide 24 hour access between the Lodge, expedition vehicles, Churchill and emergency services including:

Wat’Chee Expeditions, Churchill – (204)675-2006

Parks Canada, Churchill – (204)675-8863

R.C.M.P., Churchill – (204)675-8821

Hudson Bay Helicopters, Churchill – (204)675-2576

Radios are monitored on an ongoing basis at the Lodge.

Regular scheduled (3) daily calls are made to Wat’CHee Expedition’s administrative office in Churchill.

To download and read a copy of our formal Safety Plan (pdf) please click here. This plan is officially updated every year.