CanadaWhy are seals coming ashore? DFO scientist says it's perfectly normal

17:31  09 january  2019
17:31  09 january  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

A tiny town has been overrun with 'cute' but confused seals

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Why are seals coming ashore? DFO scientist says it's perfectly normal © Brendon FitzPatrick/Twitter Roddickton resident Brendon FitzPatrick says the seals have likely been at the mouth of the brook for several weeks. He's worried they're starving.

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.

The mayor of the Northern Peninsula community says 40 or more seals have been spotted all over town, but scientist Garry Stenson is not surprised.

"We get this every year," he said. "If it's near a town you hear more about it, but it's not totally uncommon for us to get this."

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Harp seals migrate from south from the Arctic starting in December, Stenson explained. They spend their winters off the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador. This early in the season, there's little sea ice off the island, so seals cling close to the shore, traversing iced-in harbours and bays, which freeze before the open ocean.

"Then if the ice freezes up behind them, they have a harder time getting access to water," he said.

"They really don't know which way to go."

The disoriented seals, Stenson said, keep on keeping on, hoping for the best.

Why are seals coming ashore? DFO scientist says it's perfectly normal © Brendon FitzPatrick/Twitter Brendon FitzPatrick/Twitter

"It's almost like they get going in a direction and just keep going, hoping that they're going to eventually find water that way," he said.

Rescue afoot for seals stranded in N.L. town

Rescue afoot for seals stranded in N.L. town RODDICKTON, N.L. - Fisheries officials have rescued at least eight seals from a small Newfoundland town that's been overrun by dozens of the blubbery mammals for over a week. Roddickton Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald says there are still plenty of wayward seals roaming the town, but she's happy the Fisheries Department is working hard to catch and return them to the ocean. Located on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, Roddickton is at the edge of an inlet that has trapped a group of around 40 harp seals in the area after it froze over, leaving them hungry and disoriented.

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"Usually they find their way back fine."

'Pitiful to look at'

The mayor of Roddickton-Bide Arm fears the seals are too confused to find their way out of town this time.

"They're pitiful to look at. I mean, they haven't eaten," Sheila Fitzgerald said.

"I don't see that there's any way that these seals are going to survive unless [DFO officers] pick them up and literally bring them back to the edge of the ice."

Why are seals coming ashore? DFO scientist says it's perfectly normal © Provided by Marystown RCMP Provided by Marystown RCMP

The mayor said the seals' grey coats blend in with the road, and the town has had several calls from drivers who've had near-misses.

"It actually feels like we're being inundated with seals because there's seals on the road, there's seals in people's driveways, the backyards, the parking lots, the doorways, the businesses."

Stenson is confident the seals will eventually get their bearings, but until they do he said people should keep their distance — don't go in for any seal selfies.

"Don't go up to them," he said.

"Harp seals are not particularly aggressive but they can be if they're being approached. So your best bet is to call your local fishery officer."

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