Polar bear makes rare appearance on Quebec's Lower North Shore

The great white Arctic visitor likely floated into the Gulf of St. Lawrence aboard an ice floe, Quebec's Wildlife Ministry says. After a few days' rest, he's now headed north. "They got like a built-in compass," a local fishing guide says.

Arctic bear now headed north after most likely floating into Gulf of St. Lawrence aboard ice floe

Pakuashipi school teacher Pierre-Alexandre Defoy captured this image of the visiting polar bear. (Pierre-Alexandre Defoy/Facebook)

​James McKinnon was out chopping wood on Wednesday, minding his own business.

The hunting and fishing guide, who lives in the remote village of Saint-Augustin on Quebec's Lower North Shore, had no idea he was about to experience a once-in-a-decade moment.

"Some local guys said there was a polar bear on the island, only about a kilometre from the village," he told CBC's Breakaway

The island is close to Saint-Augustin and the neighbouring Innu community of Pakuashipi, and McKinnon said the bear was trying to get closer to the village.

There are no roads into the Innu community of Pakuashipi and the neighbouring village of Saint-Augustin, on Quebec's Lower North Shore. The nearest hospital is in Blanc Sablon, 200 kms. away, by aircraft. (Google Maps)

Residents in the area wouldn't flinch if it was a black bear, McKinnon said.

"But [a] polar bear won't run away if he sees a human," he said. "You're just another piece of food."

The polar bear was spotted basking in the sun on an island in Quebec's Lower North Shore. (Pierre-Alexandre Defoy/Facebook)

The last time a polar bear was spotted in the area, a decade ago, it was found eating out of a dog's food bowl and had to be shot for fear it would harm the locals.

McKinnon said a few volunteers on snowmobile kept the bear away from the mainland until conservation officers arrived.

In one moment captured by Pierre-Alexandre Defoy, a teacher in Pakuashipi, the polar bear is seen basking in the sunlight before bearing its teeth.

"He wasn't angry, he just yawned," Defoy said, adding that polar bear collapsed into a deep slumber five seconds later.

(Pierre-Alexandre Defoy/Facebook)

After a few days' sightseeing, bear heads north

According to Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, the bear most likely ended up in the area aboard a ice floe from Labrador.

They got like a built-in compass. They know where's going better than any human knows.- Saint-Augustin resident James McKinnon

With global warming and melting ice, this phenomenon could happen more and more often, especially in spring, the ministry said

The Ministry said it last received reports about polar bear sightings on the Lower North Shore in Vieux-Fort in 2012 and, before that, in Blanc-Sablon in 2005.

As of noon Friday, McKinnon said Saint-Augustin's polar bear had headed away from town and had travelled about 15 kilometres, heading north.

"They got like a built-in compass. They know where's going better than any human knows."

(Pierre-Alexandre Defoy/Facebook)

Though the bear doesn't appear to have eaten since Wednesday, McKinnon said he wasn't worried for the "healthy bear," nor did he think the bear still posed a danger to the community.

"There's no sense in shooting it if you don't have to, because it's a beautiful animal, so let him go back where he belongs at and let him go."

With files from CBC Quebec's Breakaway and Radio-Canada's Vincent Larin