Polar bear killed in Gaspésie | “We were lucky that nothing happened”

The run of the polar bear seen in Gaspésie last spring could have ended in a worse way since it had been prowling in the region for at least five days when it was finally reported and then shot down from a helicopter.

Posted yesterday at 6:00 p.m.

Vincent Larin

Vincent Larin
The Press

This is demonstrated by a series of documents from the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) obtained by The Press thanks to the Act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information.

Among these are images showing a tuft of hair from the beast dated April 25, five days before it was put down.

The animal considered the largest predator on the planet was then spotted by the surveillance camera of a hunter in the Petite-Vallée sector, 25 km from the location of the Madeleine-Centre sector, in Sainte-Madeleine -de-la-Rivière-Madeleine, where he breathed his last.

The bear had been on the mainland for at least 5 days as the photos are from April 25, 5 days before the report.

A civil servant in a heavily redacted exchange provided by the MFFP

“We were lucky that nothing happened before,” rightly notes this same official.


PHOTO FROM AN MFFP DOCUMENT

The pelt of the polar bear (bottom right) as captured by a hunter’s camera on April 25, 2022, in the Petite-Vallée sector

Asked to comment on the risk faced by residents of the region, the MFFP indicated that it could not comment on this question.

“In this specific case, no chance was to be taken considering the proximity to the population of the sector and the danger that this animal represents for humans”, supports Stéphane Desmeules, press relations officer at the MFFP.

“Chemical immobilization” considered

But the option of “chemical immobilization” had been considered at the same time as the slaughter, before finally being set aside. The teams on site were also informed that Environment and Climate Change Canada also did not have “available equipment, helicopters, tranquilizers” at its disposal to capture the polar bear.

“The animal is imposing and has a confident demeanor. The option of chemical immobilization cannot be retained. The available black bear cages cannot contain a polar bear of this size”, however, writes a wildlife officer in his report of the event.

We receive the organization’s decision that priority is given to the issue of citizen and agent safety and that the animal must therefore be put down.

A wildlife officer in his report of the event

“A helicopter is chartered for the next morning,” he continues. “Around 8:13 a.m., the premises were secured and the bear was shot. »

In its assessment of the operation, the MFFP defended tooth and nail its decision to opt for the slaughter of the bear.

“Chemical immobilization vs. slaughter”, indicates despite everything a point on the menu of the debriefing organized by the MFFP on May 2, the day after the operation.

It was the impossibility of scaring this animal and the incompatibility of the equipment available on site that led to this decision of last resort.

Mario Gosselin. from the management of the office of the deputy minister of the MFFP, in a long email in response to a complaint from a citizen shocked by the intervention

“The protocols put in place in Churchill, Manitoba, where cohabitation with polar bears is predictable, are examples that cannot be compared to the situation experienced in Gaspésie. This kind of protocol must be meticulously prepared by veterinary specialists and biologists,” says the Department of the Deputy Minister’s Office at the MFFP.

A crossing of the St. Lawrence?

The documents obtained also shed light on the origin of the bear, of which we know very little, apart from the fact that it would come from the Davis Strait, in northeastern Quebec.

A polar bear, possibly the same one, had been observed in the Baie-Johan-Beetz sector, in the Lower North Shore, two weeks earlier.

“He would have set sail around April 13 in Baie-Johan-Beetz. If it is the same bear, it had to go around or cross Anticosti Island, ”says a spokesperson for the MFFP in an email exchange shortly after the operation.


PHOTO FROM AN MFFP DOCUMENT

Bear movements in the Baie-Johan-Beetz sector, in the Lower North Shore, by time and date

He was a “young male” about 5 years old according to his weight, notes the person responsible for the necropsy carried out by a team from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Montreal.

Abundant fat reserves. Honestly a little surprising for this time of year, I would have expected a leaner bear at the start of feeding season, but hey, [il] You should find references on that.

Report of the necropsy of the polar bear carried out by the veterinary faculty of the University of Montreal

The MFFP is currently working to determine “the best way” to enhance the animal’s skin. This is being tanned by a specialized service. Quebec also paid $400 to have the animal skinned.

The Ministry has taken “internal steps aimed at setting up a mechanism for the management of nuisance polar bears”, specifies the management of the office of the Deputy Minister of the MFPP. However, the latter does not intend to carry out an independent investigation into the operation that led to the slaughter of the polar bear.

Learn more

  • 5330
    Number of polar bears in the three subpopulations present in Quebec, namely those of Fox Basin (approximately 2,300 individuals), southern Hudson Bay (approximately 800 individuals) and Davis Strait (approximately 2,250 individuals) )

    Source: MFFP

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