New­found­land town fears fate of stranded seals swarm­ing its streets

StarMetro Toronto - - BIG OPINIONS -

RODDICKTON, N. L.— Seals have been swarm­ing the streets of a north­ern New­found­land town, with res­i­dents fear­ing for the an­i­mals’ safety but be­ing warned to stay away.

Bren­don Fitz­patrick, of Roddickton, said seals had been spot­ted in the area as early as Oc­to­ber, but in re­cent weeks the an­i­mals have wan­dered into town, some­times in the mid­dle of the road.

Im­ages posted to Fitz­patrick’s Twit­ter feed show the seals crawl­ing along town streets, swim­ming in a brook and climb­ing a snow bank near a gas sta­tion.

“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 Mon­day.

Fitz­patrick has seen the an­i­mals in groups of two or three and more than 20, and ex­pressed con­cern that the an­i­mals could be in­jured by ve­hi­cles or cu­ri­ous on­look­ers.

The ice has frozen, mak­ing it nearly im­pos­si­ble for them to swim back to the open ocean.

Fitz­patrick said he hopes the fed­eral Fish­eries Depart­ment will be able to step in and bring the seals back to the ocean.

“No­body likes to see some­thing in a place where they’re trapped in,” Fitz­patrick, a for­mer hunt­ing and fish­ing guide, said.

“You gotta won­der if they’re go­ing to sur­vive or why the Fish­eries Depart­ment don’t do some­thing to take them out?”

The Fish­eries Depart­ment is­sued a state­ment say­ing the sit­u­a­tion is be­ing mon­i­tored and re­mind­ing peo­ple it is il­le­gal and dan­ger­ous to dis­turb a marine mam­mal.

“Seals are wild an­i­mals that can be un­pre­dictable, and may be­come ag­gres­sive in or­der to pro­tect them­selves. In rare cases, seals carry in­fec­tions that can be passed on to hu­mans,” the state­ment read.

“We would like to re­mind peo­ple that it is il­le­gal to dis- turb a marine mam­mal and hu­man in­ter­ac­tion can dis­turb an an­i­mal’s nor­mal life pro­cesses and can re­sult in in­jury or death of the an­i­mal.”

Fitz­patrick said this law puts res­i­dents in a bind, how­ever, be­cause the seals are of­ten on pub­lic roads where they could be hurt.

“It’s hard to stay away from them some­times, there might be one in your drive­way,” Fitz­patrick said. “Peo­ple are wor­ried about touch­ing them, about tak­ing one and mov­ing them from the road be­cause you don’t know if the Depart­ment of Fish­eries is go­ing to charge you if they come.”

Last year, a harp seal that charmed spec­ta­tors on a New­found­land beach was found dead a few days later.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Seals have been swarm­ing the streets of a north­ern New­found­land town, with res­i­dents fear­ing for the an­i­mals’ safety but be­ing warned to stay away.

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