Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Wandering seal visits southern Newfoundland town, seems keen to stay

Wandering seal visits southern Newfoundland town, seems keen to stay

Mr Fitzpatrick said the seals had been stranded for "a few weeks" and were "probably starving", having become lost some four or five miles from the ocean.

Because the mammals are not used to swimming under solid ice, Stenson said the seals most likely traveled inland and are now hanging out around the town.

They might look a little out of place scooting down the streets of Roddickton-Bide Arm, but a Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist says it's not unusual to see harp seals come ashore in Newfoundland this time of year.

"People chase them. People are there every day on snowmobiles stopping and looking at them, and the animals, they won't move from you", he said in an interview Monday.

The animals seem more lethargic now than when they first arrived in the town, she said, and appear to be travelling further out from the brooks, potentially in search of something to eat.

"For animals to be going into bays and then to be caught up by the freeze is not that common, though it's happened before", said Stenson. They bide their time on offshore ice floes as they feed and give birth.

This year, he says, limited ocean ice might be forcing the seals to settle for coastal ice, which increases their risk of stranding.

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"This has gone on long enough", Fitzgerald said, opining that if a whale had been stranded, federal officials in Canada might have reacted more quickly.

But the town couldn't exactly take matters into its own hands.

It is against Canadian law to interfere with marine mammals. "We understand that it is tempting to interact with animals", cautioned the department in a statement sent to NPR. In yet another incident of weird animal invasion, dozens of seals have descended upon the roads and the driveways of the town, creating an unfamiliar experience for the residents.

"Seals are wild animals that can be unpredictable, and may become aggressive in order to protect themselves".

DFO is continuing to monitor the situation in Roddickton-Bide Arm where dozens of seals have collected in recent days.

"It's heartbreaking to watch this", she adds. "This is hard for the little seals, because nobody wants to see animals hurt - but it's also hard for the town".

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