A polar bear was spotted in an area of Quebec south of the St. Lawrence River on Saturday, leading wildlife officers and police to alert residents of a small village to the highly unusual visit.
The animal with white fur, a symbol of global warming, was seen in the morning in Madeleine-Centre in Gaspésie, according to witnesses. He was still at large in the afternoon and officers in charge of the management and protection of wildlife species were trying to locate him.
“The dog was yelping and I heard my partner yell ‘There’s a bear! There is a bear!’“, told AFP Sophie Bonneville, who lives a few months a year in this village of about 2,000 inhabitants, located more than 800 km northeast of Montreal and currently under snow.
No one has ever seen this
The Sûreté du Québec (SQ, provincial police) later warned residents on Twitter: “A polar bear was seen in the Madeleine-Centre sector. The police secure the scene. (…) We ask residents to stay under cover and not venture outside“.
Astonished by the presence of the arctic predator in her yard, the witness indicated that “no one has ever seen this, not even the wildlife officers or the police. People thought it was a joke“.
“It is very unusual to see such a northern species end up so far from its southern limit of distribution.“, reacted to AFP the biologist and researcher in marine ecology Lyne Morissette, specifying that”the current climatic disturbances have something to do with it“.
Polar bear’s ‘worrying’ status
Police were providing security in the area on Saturday, where many pedestrians are used to taking walks.
“We went door to door to advise residents of the area to stay inside“, explained to AFP Stéphane Tremblay, spokesperson for the SQ, also saying “never to have seen“such a situation.
“With climate change, anything is possible.“, added the Gaspé witness, who had time to take some photos of the animal before it headed into the forest.
In Canada, the polar bear – the largest terrestrial carnivore on the planet – is a species whose status is “worrying“.
A 2020 study published in Nature Climate Change revealed that global warming could lead to the virtual extinction of this emblematic animal since the ice floe, its habitat, is gradually disappearing.