Strange sight: Black bears above treeline in northern Quebec
‘We’re not used to having black bears this far north,' wildlife warden says
"Dad, there's a bear behind the Northern Store."
That's how Michael Cameron said he first became aware of the furry visitor that wandered into town.
Cameron, the wildlife warden of Salluit, Que., said he grabbed his rifle for protection and ran to the scene. When he approached the animal on the hillside, he noticed it was a "black moving object."
No, it wasn't a polar bear — what Cameron said he was expecting. Rather, it was a young black bear, about five feet long from nose to tail.
"We never had any black bear encounters this close to town," Cameron said.
Salluit, one of the northernmost communities in the Nunavik region of Quebec, is far away from the treeline. So what was the black bear doing there?
"I have no clue," Michael said. "[It's] very strange."
It was Cameron who shot and killed the bear — who was getting too close for comfort.
He said there was a big crowd of onlookers down by the Northern Store, just a few hundred feet from the black bear.
"I didn't want it getting down below to where the children and people were watching," Cameron said.
"Trying to think of public safety and all that, if we were able to scare it off, what would stop it from coming back a few hours later?"
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Multiple reports of blacks bears
There have been other recent reports of black bear sightings in northern Quebec, according to Cameron.
"Another hunter eight kilometres from town spotted and also harvested a black bear while he was out fishing," he said.
Cameron said the hunter shot the bear out of self-defence. The incident occurred five days prior to Cameron's encounter.
He said there was also a recent sighting of a black bear in the community of Kangiqsujuaq.
"We're not used to having black bears this far north. We're not in the treeline or anything," Cameron said.
Although the government is aware of black bears near treeline communities, like Kuujjuaq, "for the northern communities, it's something new," said Steven Kleist, assistant director for renewable resources with Kativik Regional Government.
Despite the recent sightings, Kleist said "it's not a real concern" yet.
"There's documentation being done, but right now black bears are not an extreme threat to our population in northern Quebec."
Kleist added there were no records of black bear attacks on humans in the region.
However, Kleist is warning people that black bears are smart, predatory animals, and people should be extremely careful when encountering one.
He also said to be mindful of food and garbage left out on the land.
"Our weather is warming up, it's getting easier for the black bears to get up further north," Kleist said.
When harvesting black bear meat, Kleist said to cook the meat thoroughly to kill parasites often found in black bears.
Cameron said the black bear meat was shared in Salluit, and its hide will be used by hunters.
Cameron said he will also hold a pallack — a traditional candy toss celebration for the first catch.
With files from Mike Salomonie