The animal with white fur, a symbol of global warming, was seen in the morning in Madeleine-Centre in Gaspésie, according to witnesses.
The scene is not common. 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, and was free in the afternoon while wildlife officers, charged with Wildlife Management and Protection Canada, were trying to locate him.
“The dog was yelping and I heard my spouse shout ‘There’s a bear! There’s a bear!'” Sophie Bonneville, who lives a few months a year in this village of around 2,000, told AFP. inhabitants, located more than 800 km northeast of Montreal and currently covered in 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, near the old airport. The police are securing the scene. We ask residents to stay sheltered 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, even the wildlife officers or the police. People thought it was a joke”.
“How did a bear manage to cross over the ice floe, swim and get here? People don’t even see one on the north coast!” Asked Sophie Bonneville.
“With climate change, anything is possible”
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, spokesman for the SQ, also specifying “never to have seen” such a situation.
“With climate change, anything is possible,” added the Gaspé witness, who had time to take a few photos of the animal before it headed into the forest. “What’s worrying is why he went here? Is it global warming? Is it just a mistake of nature?”
In Canada, the polar bear – the largest terrestrial carnivore on the planet – is a species whose status is “special concern”.
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.