A sizable polar bear wandered into a Canadian community some distance from its traditional territory over the weekend before it was shot and killed by police. As the Guardian reports, such incidents are likely to become more common as climate change decimates Arctic sea ice. The 650-pound bear—the first to be spotted on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, per the Canadian Press—was sighted near the town of Madeleine-Centre on Quebec's Gaspé peninsula; that's roughly 360 miles northeast of Quebec City. It may have traveled on sea ice from the South Labrador Sea, where polar bear food is abundant this time of year.
"Anywhere else in the Arctic, they are usually a little bit on the thin side, but this one was very fat," Ian Stirling, an expert on polar bears at the University of Alberta, tells the CP. However, the bear would've needed to swim for the last leg of its journey to the peninsula. The provincial police service warned residents after the bear was spotted near Madeleine-Centre on Saturday. It was shot dead around 8:30am Sunday following a search involving drones and a helicopter. Per the CP, officials didn't have access to equipment to capture and relocate the bear, which was twice the size of the black bears found in the region.
"These bears have never been there before in modern history, so this is not something that I think wildlife agencies can be prepared for," Andrew Derocher, a professor of biology at the University of Alberta, who's currently doing fieldwork on polar bears more than 1,300 miles northwest, tells the CP. Though officials could have waited for the expensive equipment to arrive from elsewhere, "there were too many risk issues," Derocher says. Simply put, the bear "got into a place where it couldn't stay." (Read more polar bear stories.)