Visitor Safety in Wapusk National Park
Communication Systems | Rescue Capability | Natural Hazards | Minimizing Risk
Weather | Wildlife | Terrain | Hypothermia & Frostbite | Drinking Water
Climate has a dramatic effect on the degree and severity of natural hazards found within the park. Weather conditions can be extreme and can change quickly. Strong winds can pick up suddenly and temperatures can rise or fall as much as 15°C in an hour. Snow can fall at any time of the year. Be prepared for delays due to weather and carry extra food, fuel and clothing.
Wapusk experiences unpredictable, changeable weather with frequent storms. Bring clothing suitable for both wet conditions and extreme cold. Severe Arctic conditions prevail in winter. Temperatures drop below -25°C for weeks at a time, and wind chill can plunge the air temperature to an equivalent -50°C or colder. Exposed skin freezes in less than 30 seconds at this temperature. In winter, frostbite, hypothermia and snow blindness pose dangers. Know the signs and symptoms of hypothermia and be prepared to treat it.
Wildlife encounters have the potential of being hazardous. Wildlife species that could potentially pose threats to visitors include calving or rutting caribou and moose. Foxes are abundant in Wapusk National Park, and may carry rabies. Keep your distance from these animals. As a general rule, keep a safe distance from all wildlife and remember that it is illegal to touch, feed or entice wildlife by holding out foodstuffs in a national park.
Dense concentrations of biting insects occur during the summer (late June-August) and may result in severe insect harassment. Use bug-proof jackets and hats, and carry repellent.
Polar bear © Parks Canada
Polar bears, as well as black and grizzly bears, have all been observed in Wapusk National Park. Bears may be encountered anywhere at any time in the park.
Polar bears are a risk at all times of the year, but especially during ice-free periods. They are most numerous on land from July through November. Many female bears remain in dens inland until March, when they begin to travel with cubs back to Hudson Bay.
Visitors should be aware of and follow safe practices for traveling in bear country. You should know the proper procedures for bear encounters, food storage, camping and personal hygiene in order to minimize the likelihood of problems with bears. Inquire about the types of bear deterrents that are permitted in the park.
Snow covered region © Parks Canada
Sea, lake and river ice may be unstable and unsafe any time of the year. Inland, the park is almost entirely muskeg and tundra, which is almost impassable for much of the year. Travel in this area is restricted to winter.
The terrain in the park ranges from boreal forest, raised gravel beach ridges, flowing rivers, rocky coastline and areas of flat and hummocky tundra and tussocks which all have their inherent hazards. Many of the risks associated with topographical hazards are heightened when combined with bad weather, including wind, snow and ice. Most risks related to topographical hazards involve slipping / falling, or soft terrain and sinkholes. Navigation can be difficult with few natural landmarks, and the risk of becoming disoriented or lost is high.
Learn more: Ice Conditions
Hypothermia and frostbite are possible risks in the park area throughout the year. Hypothermia is the extreme loss of body heat; core temperature drops, which can result in unconsciousness and death. Hypothermia is caused by cold, but it is aggravated by wet, wind, and exhaustion. Know how to treat it and take precautions to prevent its onset; dress in layers, take frequent rest stops, and eat frequent, nutritional snacks and drinks. Pay attention to your body. Remember, there is no natural protection in the open tundra.
Learn more: Cold Injuries
Fresh water in rivers, creeks or ponds is not tested or treated in Wapusk National Park, except at the two park-owned compounds and two research camps (Nester One and Nestor Two). Due to a high number of wildlife in the park, water-borne pathogens are a concern.
We advise visitors to treat all water before using it for drinking, brushing teeth or washing food. Consult the Health Canada water quality web site for information on using purification techniques to help prevent disease.