'Slow the ... down! There's a polar bear': Blanc Sablon, Que., residents on high alert

Wildlife officers have flown into the Lower North Shore community to look out for the polar bear after resident Sadie Toope and her husband spotted it on Highway 138 at the crack of dawn Thursday.

Wildlife officers fly into Lower North Shore town to look out for animal

Toope last saw the bear as it was swimming toward Île-aux-Perroquets, an island off the coast. (Sadie Toope/Facebook)

Sadie Toope was on her way to work at the crack of dawn Thursday, when she spotted a polar bear.

"I was excited because I've never seen one before in real life," said Toope, who lives in Blanc-Sablon, Que., on Quebec's Lower North Shore, near the Quebec–Labrador border.

Toope said it's a day she'll remember for a long time. She was riding along in the passenger seat on an isolated stretch of Highway 138, between Blanc-Sablon and the neighbouring village of Brador, just before 4:30 a.m.

"I saw this white thing and, excuse my language, I told my husband: 'Slow the f--k down! There's a polar bear in the road,'" Toope told CBC News.

Toope managed to snap a few shots of the animal before it clambered down an embankment and swam out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The couple then watched the bear swim toward Île aux Perroquets, an island bird sanctuary off shore.

Toope posted her photos online right away, warning residents there was a polar bear roaming around.

"I was concerned. That's why I posted to Facebook right away, because people do get out early in the morning and walk around," she said.

Sadie Toope shared her photos online immediately to warn people in the region there was a polar bear roaming around. (Sadie Toope/Facebook)

Toope figured the bear must have eventually swum back to shore because it was spotted in Blanc-Sablon around 8 a.m.

Sûreté du Québec officers were on the lookout all day, but they hadn't received calls about any other sightings after the 8 a.m. incident.

A spokesperson for the SQ said provincial wildlife officers based in La Tabatière, 170 kilometres down the coast, flew into Blanc-Sablon to monitor the situation.

According to Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, interviewed two years ago when a polar bear was sighted on an island near Saint-Augustin, about 100 kilometres down the coast from Blanc-Sablon, the animals find themselves in the region more and more often, due to global warming and melting ice.

In the 2017 case, officials said, the bear most likely ended up in the Gulf of St. Lawrence by hitching a ride on an ice floe from Labrador.

Pierre-Alexandre Defoy, a schoolteacher in the Innu community of Pakuashipi, about 100 kilometres southwest of Blanc-Sablon, captured this image of a visiting polar bear in March 2017. (Pierre-Alexandre Defoy/Facebook)


With files from Thomas Cobbett Labonté


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