Fisheries officers to deal with seals invading northern Newfoundland town

Clay Curtis
January 11, 2019

Police believe the seal deaths are not criminal and likely due to their having been struck by a vehicle.

Roddickton-Bide Arm, a town of 999 people, has been swarmed by anywhere from 12 to 50 seals, Cpl.

Fisheries officers have been stationed in town and are assessing the situation and investigating their options for the stranded seals, Stenson said.

Garland said local RCMP have not received any complaints from residents about threats to public or animal safety, so the force has not intervened in removing the Roddickton seals.

The incident comes on the heels of another ongoing case of seals descending on a Newfoundland town, raising the complicated question of who should be responsible for safely removing the flippered guests.

Brendon Fitzpatrick, the mayor of nearby Conche, has been documenting the stuck seals on Twitter.

The town's roads are sanded now, to deal with ice and snow at this time of year, and the seals' light pelts blend in, she said - especially at dusk and dawn.

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Garland said complaints about the situation have gone through the town.

"We've seen them in people's backyards, people's driveways, along the sides of the roads, in the doorways and entryways to local businesses, parking lots", Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald told CBC.

Experts have said the rapid rate at which the waters froze could have disoriented the seals which is why they can now be observed heading inland. "We are getting inundated with phone calls from people that are saying, 'You've gotta do something".

Fitzgerald said a few seals are usually spotted near town every year but she's never seen such a large group, and the animals' condition is disturbing for residents whose hands are tied if they want to help.

Posting on Facebook, the force said: "The RCMP and DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) remind the general public that it is illegal to disturb marine mammals and although animals of the wild may appear to be friendly in nature, it is very risky to approach or attempt to capture animals without proper equipment".

Although harp seals are generally not aggressive, they will defend themselves if humans get too close.

- By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John's, N.L.

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