Quebec’s wildlife protection agency says it doesn’t know how a polar bear arrived on the province’s Gaspé peninsula.
Sylvain Marois, south-east district commander at the province’s wildlife protection agency, said the bear was in a wooded area near the town of Madeleine-Centre, Que., late Saturday afternoon.
A game warden is on the scene along with provincial police, he said in an interview, and the bear is being observed before they decide what action to take.
He said they are considering attempting to tranquilize the bear, but may have to kill it due to public safety concerns.
“We’re not dealing with a black bear or a moose or deer in the city, we’re dealing with a polar bear,” he said.
Provincial police issued a warning shortly before 1 p.m., asking people in Madeleine-Centre to stay in their homes.
The town, 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 not clear how the bear got to the Gaspé peninsula, though it may have swam or taken advantage of some ice.
“They can swim 50, 70, 75 km, they are really good swimmers, but we still don’t know,” he said.
One possibility is that the bear may have been a captive animal who escaped, he said, adding that that hypothesis seems unlikely.
“We don’t have any zoos, we don’t have anything near there and nobody’s calling us to tell us we lost a bear,” he said.
Marois said it’s the first time he’s heard of a polar bear sighting this far south in the province, adding it also marks the first time a polar bear has been spotted on the south shore of the St-Lawrence.
“We work with a lot of things, we work with moose, with deer, with black bears, with everything, but we never dealt with a polar bear,” Marois said.
A polar bear was spotted in Quebec’s Minganie Regional County Municipality earlier this month, more than 200 km north-east of Madeleine-Centre.
Polar bears have been spotted occasionally in coastal regions on Quebec’s Lower North Shore, several hundred kilometres north of Madeleine-Centre.