ST. ANTHONY, N.L. — East Coast polar bears have begun their annual trek north early, and despite a plethora of sightings police say they've been relatively trouble-free — give or take a damaged snowmobile or hot tub.
People in southern Labrador and along Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula are being cautioned to be on the lookout for the bears, who have begun to move north after following the ice and seals south this winter.
"Usually this will occur in April and May when we'll see a few polar bears, but regarding March, this has been an unusual high number of polar bears for the area this time of year," said RCMP Cpl. Shane Clarke in St. Anthony.
He said there have been five bears in the St. Anthony area, while provincial officials say they have also been spotted in Great Brehat, St. Carol's, Roddicton and Griquet.
For the most part we just ask that the public give them space and leave them alone and they will resume their way north back home.
There have also been pictures posted to social media of polar bears near Red Bay, Labrador.
He said spring seems to be arriving early, so the bears are passing through earlier than usual.
"They have caused some damage to snowmobile seats. There was a hot tub that was tore up," Clarke said.
"For the most part we just ask that the public give them space and leave them alone and they will resume their way north back home."
Clarke said if you do have an encounter with a bear, you should quietly back away "and never get between a mama and her cubs."
Don't get too close
RCMP and the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources say people should travel in groups, keep pets inside, and dispose of garbage that could attract the bears into communities and backyards.
Clarke said people need to use common sense and not try to get close to the bears to take pictures.
"The last thing we want to see is a bear having to be put down because of the public harassing it or chasing it on a snowmobile," he said.
Polar bears are considered a vulnerable species.
Adult male polar bears weigh up to 700 kilograms and measure up to three metres in length.
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