This is a particularly unusual visit. A polar bear was spotted in an area of Quebec south of the St. Lawrence River on Saturday, prompting wildlife officers and police to alert residents of Madeleine-Centre.
Symbol of global warming, the animal with white fur was seen in the morning in this small village 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.
“There is a bear! There is a bear! »
“The dog was yelping and I heard my partner yell ‘There’s a bear! There’s a bear!’ “, said 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 the snow. The Sûreté du Québec (SQ, provincial police) subsequently 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, even the wildlife officers or the police. People thought it was a joke”. “It’s very unusual to see such a northern species find itself so far from its southern limit of distribution,” reacted biologist and marine ecology researcher Lyne Morissette, adding that “current climate change has something to do with it. thing “.
A species threatened by melting sea ice
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 Stéphane Tremblay, spokesperson for the SQ, also saying he “never saw” such a situation.
In Canada, the polar bear – the largest land carnivore on the planet – is a species of 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.