The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat in northern Ontario is one of the most best places in Ontario to witness these fascinating animals up close.
Built upon an important trading route for Indigenous Peoples in northern Ontario, the town of Cochrane, Ontario, is as far north as many people in Ontario dare to venture.
This former stopover for fur traders making their way to the town of Moose Factory on the southern shores of Hudson Bay has evolved as an essential transit hub where goods from Ontario’s most populated province can reach the only saltwater gateway in the province.
Here, in this town of just over 5,000 residents, visitors can come face-to-face with the world’s largest land predator at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat.
My family has a mild obsession with these beautiful animals. C and I first saw them up close while visiting Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean in Quebec, while D and I visited the bears at the Assiniboine Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba. But none of that compared with our experience seeing wild polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.
Although the polar bears at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat can’t survive in the wild, seeing them up close was no less of a thrill. The boys loved the chance to experience them swimming in their pools. Even watching the largest one chow down on a moose leg was a (gory) thrill.
Of all of the polar bears (outside of Churchill), the Polar Bear Habitat gave us the best example of polar bears enjoying their habitat in the Boreal forest.
What Is The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat?
The Polar Bear Habitat in Cochrane, Ontario, is the largest facility in the world dedicated solely to the rehabilitation and care of polar bears.
Through stringent conservation methods and participation in important conservation projects, the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat has become one of the most fascinating places to visit and learn about these fascinating animals.
While the Ontario polar bears are the prime focus of this incredible facility, the habitat has also built infrastructure to support the mass of tourists that visit Cochrane each year, whether it be to explore the Polar Bear Habitat, wander the town of Cochrane itself, or take the famous “Polar Bear Express” train to the northernmost points of Ontario in the towns of Moosonee and Moose Factory on the shores of the Hudson Bay.
Along with the five polar bear enclosures that house three male bears, the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat also features a heritage village complete with turn-of-the-century cars, buildings, schoolhouses, a children’s playground, and a vintage snowmobile museum.
The Cochrane Polar Bears
Three polar bears reside at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. None of these three bears can survive in the wild and rely on the care of the professional team at the habitat to survive.
Ganuk an 11-year-old male, was born at the Zoo Sauvage de Saint-Félicien, the same park that C and I had visited in Saguenay, Quebec.
Henry is an 8-year-old male who hails all the way from the Gold Coast of Australia. He had weaned from his mother and was beginning to assert his independence, so needed a safe place to go where he would have his own space.
Inukshuk is the oldest polar bear in Cochrane, Ontario. At 18 years of age is closing into senior status. He was born in the wild near Fort Severn, Ontario but was abandoned at just three months of age. He was transferred to the Toronto Zoo for two years to get the care that he needed to survive his infancy before moving to the Polar Bear Habitat, where he has remained until now.
The bears live in a 24-acre habitat where they have the freedom to swim, sleep, eat, and play. During the summer months, they tend to be less active, spending their time in the cool shade of the trees or bathing in the pools spread throughout their enclosures.
The enclosure includes the world’s largest enclosed lake. This special feature provides a natural frozen ice platform for the bears for up to seven months of the year.
The bears are at their most active during the fall and winter when the cool weather suits their natural lifestyles. As we learned in Churchill, Manitoba, Polar Bears in Canada tend to spend their summers in the shade of the Boreal forest before migrating to the shores during the late summer to wait for the sea ice to form for seal hunting.
Due to their freedom of movement, there is no guarantee that each of the polar bears will be visible during a visit; we were able to visit all three of the Cochrane polar bears. There are also informational displays, a viewing room with great pool views, keeper talks, and a chance to meet the animal care staff.
More Things To Do At The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat
While the Cochrane polar bears are most definitely the star attraction of the Polar Bear Habitat in Cochane, Ontario, it’s by no means where the fun ends here. There is a great range of fantastic things to do a the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat to make it a destination worthy of a full-day adventure.
Classic Vintage Snowmobile Museum
As is expected in a northern Ontario community, snowmobiles have played a crucial role in the lives and businesses of the Cochrane community.
The Cochrane Classic Vintage Snowmobile Museum explores the history of the town’s relationship with snowmobiles from the 1950s to the present day. More than 100 vintage snowmobiles are displayed, from racers to personal sleds.
It’s the largest museum of its kind in Ontario. And what better place to display them than the site of the world’s very first snowmobile dealership? In fact, Cochrane is known for having some of the best snowmobile trails in Ontario.
Exploring the town of Cochrane, Ontario, it’s hard to believe that it was incorporated just over 100 years ago in 1910. To experience what was once northern Ontario’s frontier town, make a stop at the Polar Bear Habitat’s heritage village.
This immersive village gives visitors a glimpse into the life of Cochrane residents in the early 20th century. It includes an array of replica buildings, including a trappers cabin, a school, a hardware store, a garage, and a blacksmith shop.
Those visiting the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat with kids will appreciate the fantastic, multi-story playground located in the Heritage Village. This fun and adventure-filled playground has slides, climbing areas, monkey bars, and more that offer a great way for kids to burn off energy on a northern Ontario road trip.
We were pleasantly surprised to find that there was camping at the Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat. The park has camping options for tents, RVs, and campers.
The Cochrane campsites don’t have electricity, but there is access to dumping facilities and potable water available. Although the town does not permit open fires, the use of propane BBQs and gas stoves are permitted.
Would You Visit The Polar Bears in Cochrane, Ontario?
The Cochrane Polar Bear Habitat is open seven days a week. Proceeds from ticket and merchandise sales improve care programs for the Cochrane polar bears. You can visit their website for more information on their programs and admissions.
Please scroll through my Ontario family travel blog to find even more incredible things to do in the province. And feel free to drop any questions or comments below. I always answer them.
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