A polar bear that ventured into a residential area of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula over the weekend, triggering a public safety alert, has been shot, authorities said Sunday.
The Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police, said they were first called to the town of Madeleine-Centre on Saturday morning after residents reported seeing a polar bear near their homes.
Sophie Bonneville, owner of the local café in Grande-Vallée, says her husband was walking their dog in the morning when a polar bear appeared less than 30 meters from their home.
“It was my dog, Boris, who saw the bear first,” Ms Bonneville said, adding that the dog was so scared he tried to run to their family’s barn.
“The bear didn’t move for a few seconds and then turned around to walk back into the woods,” she said.
Sylvain Marois, commander of the southeast district of the province’s Wildlife Protection Agency, said a team of game wardens and a rescue team were involved in the search along with a helicopter and several drones. .
Marois said the bear was finally located at 8:15 a.m. Sunday after a sighting report just off Route 132 in Madeleine-Centre. About 15 minutes later, the polar bear was dead.
“We are not proud of this stuff,” Mr. Marois said. He said his team can safely neutralize and transport smaller bears such as black bears, but polar bears are a different story.
“A bear like this can run up to 60, 70 kilometers per hour, and they are really aggressive,” he said.
Marois said polar bears have occasionally been spotted in coastal regions of Quebec’s Lower North Shore and areas like James Bay, but not on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.
Polar bears live on Arctic sea ice, only choosing to live on land during Canadian summers when the sea ice is melting, said Polar Bears International scientist Alysa McCall. But she said polar bear sightings could become more frequent as more Arctic sea ice is lost to climate change.
“That is, of course, a big concern for Canadians because we have two-thirds of the world’s polar bears and we have many, many small coastal communities, some of which have never even seen polar bears in the past, but who could now be seen in the future,” she said.
Polar bears, she said, are mobile animals, which means they are bound to end up in unexpected places. But whether the polar bear seen in Quebec this weekend “turned around and may have followed its nose to the wrong place or not, this is absolutely an unusual place to see a polar bear,” she said. declared.
Removing and safely transporting polar bears to their habitat is no easy task.
A polar bear trap can cost up to $10,000, and the costs of lethal and non-lethal deterrents and helicopters to properly monitor bears can add up quickly. Cities like Churchill, Manitoba, which are famous in Canada for their polar bear populations, are more likely to have the funding, resources and trained professionals to safely remove polar bears from public spaces.
But Ms McCall said it would not be fair to expect small communities to have the equipment or the money at their disposal to safely trap polar bears at all times.
“Non-lethal options are great, but at the end of the day, of course, human life comes first,” she said. “One thing that needs to happen in the years to come is broader support for these communities with more options on how to deal with polar bears.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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