Quebec’s wildlife protection agency says it doesn’t know how a polar bear arrived on the province’s Gaspé Peninsula.
Sylvain Marois, commander of the southeast district of the province’s wildlife agency, said the bear was in a wooded area near the town of Madeleine-Centre, Quebec. late Saturday afternoon.
A game warden is on the scene with the provincial police, he said in an interview, and the bear is being observed before they decide what action to take.
He said they were considering trying to tranquilize the bear, but may have to kill it for public safety reasons.
“We’re not dealing with a black bear or a moose or a deer in town, we’re dealing with a polar bear,” he said.
Provincial police issued a warning shortly before 1 p.m., asking residents of Madeleine-Centre to stay home.
The city, located on the Gaspé Peninsula, is less than 300 km north of the New Brunswick border and separated from more northern parts of Quebec by more than 100 km of water.
Marois said it’s unclear how the bear got to the Gaspé Peninsula, though it may have been swimming or enjoying the ice.
“They can swim 50, 70, 75 km, they are very good swimmers, but we still don’t know,” he said.
One possibility is that the bear could have been a captive animal that escaped, he said, adding that this hypothesis seems unlikely.
“We don’t have any zoos, we don’t have anything nearby and no one is calling to tell us we’ve lost a bear,” he said.
Marois said it was the first time he had heard of a polar bear this far south in the province, adding that it was also the first time a polar bear had been seen on the south shore of the Saint -Laurent.
“We work with a lot of things, we work with moose, with deer, with black bears, with everything, but we’ve never dealt with a polar bear,” Marois said.
A polar bear was spotted in the regional county municipality of Minganie in Quebec earlier this month, more than 200 km northeast of Madeleine-Centre.
Polar bears have been sighted occasionally in the coastal regions of Quebec’s Lower North Shore, several hundred kilometers north of Madeleine-Centre.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 30, 2022.