Manitoba polar bear wanders 400 km south

A polar bear has been spotted swimming in the Manitoba community of Shamattawa, a long way from the Churchill tundra where the bears are typically found.
A polar bear was spotted at the river's edge in the community of Shamattawa on Sunday evening. ((RCMP))

A polar bear has created a buzz of excitement in the northern Manitoba community of Shamattawa.

The bear was spotted Sunday swimming in the river, about 400 kilometres south of the Churchill tundra where the big white bears are typically found.

Residents spotted the bear at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday, according to RCMP.

Officers launched the police boat and made a patrol, locating the lone bear swimming in the river and drinking at the shore. 

RCMP officers watched the bear for a few hours, until darkness fell and it left the area. ((RCMP))

"The bear appeared to be young, but was quite a good size … [and] the people in the community were very excited to see it," RCMP Sgt. Noel Allard said.

"This is the first time anyone in the area remembers seeing a polar bear," Allard said after speaking to several elders in the community.

Manitoba Conservation wildlife manager Daryll Hedman called the sighting rare but not an unheard-of occurrence.

He believes the last time they were called about a polar bear in that community was in the mid-1990s, although some polar bears have actually been seen even further south.

It is probably a teenaged bear, Hedman said, noting those are the ones that tend to explore.

"They wander. They are built for travel," he said.

RCMP members monitored the bear's movements until darkness fell and it left the area.

Shamattawa is located about 400 kilometres south of Churchill, which is on the southwestern shore of Hudson Bay. (CBC)

Hedman said a conservation officer won't likely be sent to Shamattawa unless the bear reappears and becomes a nuisance.

Manitoba Conservation was advised and will also be watching for the bear, RCMP said.

There was no explanation for why the bear was in the area.

Shamattawa is located about 750 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. It's a fly-in community only connected to the rest of the province during the winter months, when ice roads are created across the frozen terrain.

Churchill, on the southwestern shore of Hudson Bay, is about 1,100 kilometres from Winnipeg.