Sealed off! Big freeze strands animals in town

Sealed off! Big freeze strands animals in town

Sealed off! Big freeze strands animals in town

The town's Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald said there was a growing sense the seals were everywhere. Dozens of the animals are now stranded in the small Canadian town.

Roddickton-Bide Arm is on an important sealing migration route.

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 are asking residents to contact their officer or Crime Stoppers (1-800-222-8477) if they see a seal on a roadway or are aware of people disturbing seals. But as winter closed in this year, the seals apparently became stranded, separated from open water by miles of ice.

Fitzgerald said the group of about 40 harp seals is becoming hungry, exhausted and are crying out, suggesting they may be too disoriented to find their way back to the ocean.

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

"People chase them", he told the CBC.

"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.

"They're getting a little bit more lazy now, a little more exhausted and lethargic", Fitzgerald says.

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"There's not enough food in that little water supply", she said.

However, Stenson said that harp seals are accustomed to going for stretches without feeding, and at this time of year should have built up their energy reserves in preparation for breeding.

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.

She also said that the seals appeared increasingly lethargic. Fitzgerald said a plane from St. John's will fly over the area to assess the situation beyond the town once weather permits.

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

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". "We understand that it is tempting to interact with animals", cautioned the department in a statement sent to NPR.

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

The wayward animals have been blocking roads, driveways and doors in Roddickton, N.L. - and residents are unable to move them because it is illegal to touch marine mammals. An aerial reconnaissance mission to determine the size of the ice and the stranded pod has also been discussed, a plan the DFO says has been hampered by bad weather.

"It's heartbreaking to watch this", she adds.

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