Quebec’s wildlife protection agency says a polar bear that was spotted Saturday on the province’s Gaspé peninsula has been killed.
Sylvain Marois, southeast district commander at the agency, says the bear was found in a wooded area near the town of Madeleine-Centre, Que., later that day.
The provincial police lifted the warning alert early Sunday for residents, who were asked to stay indoors until the animal was captured.
Marois says the polar bear was killed for public safety reasons, as being outside his natural environment could have made the animal more aggressive.
The event marks the first time a polar bear has been spotted on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.
Marois says it’s not clear how the bear got to the peninsula, but believes he might have swum 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-Laurence.
“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.