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Stranded seals wreak havoc in Canadian town

12 January 2019

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.

Harp seals travel south in winter months from the Canadian Arctic and Greenland to waters off the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Garry Stenson of Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans told The Northern Pen.

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

"They've been saying let nature take its course, but it's been nearly a week", Fitzgerald said. DFO has returned individual seals to open water in the past.

But the town couldn't exactly take matters into its own hands. "If they could, they would have", Fitzgerald said.

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

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The seals in Roddickton appear to be older animals, Stenson said.

They have been blocking roads and doors to businesses, leaving locals exasperated, as interference with marine mammals is illegal under Canadian law.

Police say the animal crossed highways, moved through traffic and posed a "public safety issue" on Saturday before being spotted outside the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre, where it blocked an ambulance route. "We understand that it is tempting to interact with animals", cautioned the department in a statement sent to NPR.

The residents of the town have shared photos and videos of the sea animals taking over their daily lives. "However, a seal is a wild animal that should not be approached or touched".

The DFO is working on a plan for the seals, including determining exactly where they're located and how many are in the area. One expressed concern that the seals would not find their way back to the ocean, fearing they would head further inland and die.

Seals at mouth of the brook in Roddickton. To her, it's obvious the animals are struggling and suffering.

Stranded seals wreak havoc in Canadian town