After asking residents of a community on the north coast of the Gaspé Peninsula to hide indoors for nearly 24 hours after spotting a polar bear, provincial police said it was now safe to go outside.
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ) issued the warning at 1 p.m. Saturday after the bear was spotted in the area of Madeleine-Centre, Quebec. by the site of the old airport.
The bear was located and killed around 8:30 a.m. Sunday following an aerial search, wildlife officials said. According to them, it was not safe enough to move the bear to its original habitat.
The mayor of Sainte-Madeleine-de-la-Rivière-Madeleine said he was alerted to the situation on Saturday morning, after a friend of his sent him photos of the bear and one of its footprints.
“It was a funny day. I was wondering how a polar bear could get there, it’s a little early for April Fools,” Joël Côté told Radio-Canada on Saturday.
Sophie Bonneville told Radio-Canada that she spotted the bear near her home after her dog Boris alerted her. Quebec wildlife officials were contacted shortly afterwards.
“My partner was shoveling and Boris ran away because, well, he doesn’t represent anything on our lands, not even a crow,” Bonneville said. “He looked at the dog, he was not afraid.”
“After looking at my partner, he turned to walk back into the woods.”
As of Saturday afternoon, officials had yet to confirm it was a polar bear as they continued to search for its tracks.
“There is a photo where you can see the bear well, and it’s white. In terms of color, it’s the right color,” added Côté. “I am not an expert.”
SQ officers went door to door advising area residents to stay indoors.
A rare but not impossible visit, according to a biologist
Dominique Berteaux, biologist and professor at the University of Quebec in Rimouski, had bet that it was a polar bear.
Polar bears found in the spring on the east coast of Labrador move north when the sea ice breaks up, Berteaux said, but noted that sometimes bears can get lost. They are also fantastic swimmers, he said.
“The Inuit consider it a marine mammal,” Berteaux said. “According to the scientific literature, there is nothing exceptional about a bear swimming 100 or 200 kilometers.”
Earlier this month, polar bears were sighted more than 200 km to the north, across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in the region of Baie-Johan-Beetz. A polar bear was also recently seen near the Innu community of Unamen Shipu on the Lower North Shore, which is already south of the animal’s normal habitat.