BRYSON, QC -- The Pontiac region of Quebec has tightened its borders on its residents, having citizens of each rural community stay within their boundaries.

Many towns in the region rely on surrounding larger cities for provisions, forcing towns with populations in the hundreds to make tough decisions.

In the town of Bryson, about an hour drive north-west of Ottawa, resident Lynne Spencer is counting meal worms, food, for a gift her family received from Santa, 14 years ago. A leopard-skin gecko.

Spencer has about two weeks worth of meals left for Sammy the lizard. With no pet stores in the town of 700 people, she would normally hop in her car and make the twenty minute drive to Renfrew, crossing at the Chenaux Dam.

“We cannot go anywhere, we can’t cross into Ontario,” Spencer says, sighting the cross-border checkpoints the Quebec government ordered at the beginning of April, in an effort to limit non-essential travel between the two provinces.

The obvious would be to go to Gatineau, a major hub with big-box stores and pet shops. Now, she can’t do that either. The Pontiac Region of the Outaouais has tightened restrictions even further, requiring residents from the surrounding rural communities to shelter-in-place.

“There’s always a roadblock in Quyon,” says Spencer, which is a short drive south of her town. “It’s the end of our MRC and going into the next one. This doesn’t allow us to go into Alymer or Hull.”

Many of the small communities in the area don’t have all the necessities for families, and the cost of food at many of the depanneurs, or corner store, are more expensive.  

The Pontiac is made up of many small communities with local shops, many of which don’t have all the supplies the residents need.

“We’re looking at first of all trying to improve maybe the supply and pricing in the food stores that we have,” says Jane Toller.

Toller is the warden for MRC Pontiac. The area is large and the population, is not. There are 14,250 residents who live within the 18 municipalities. She says the restrictions are no doubt tough, but necessary.

“The Pontiac’s health is fragile,” she says. “We have the poorest health in the province of Quebec especially in the area of respiratory, circulatory, diabetes, cancer ... We’ve got the threat of a virus and we’re doing really well I believe.”

Toller believes that the controlled access points are making a difference, saying that they have less than five cases for 14 days in a row.

“In a perfect world where you have things at your fingertips there just not available right now and we’ll just have to be resourceful and manage.” Toller says.

For Spencer, she understands why the measures are in place, but questions if they may be too strict. She cannot feed Sammy wild crickets or worms, it would kill the lizard and mailing live worms isn’t an option as well.  

While she knows that Sammy is “just a gecko”, and not a human life, the though of seeing the family pet suffer would hurt. Spencer says “we just hate to see a living creature die.”