Seals invade Roddickton, Newfoundland

Roddickton is a town on the eastern side of the Great Northern Peninsula in Newfoundland, Canada. It is a relatively small town with a population of approximately 1000 people according to the census profile in 2016. Recently, the town was invaded and overrun by herds of stranded harp seals crawling on the roads, driveways, and in the parking lots of homes.

Harp seals are commonly found in these three regions: the Greenland Sea, White sea, and Newfoundland in Canada. These seals spend most of their time swimming in the water and resurface only to get dry and warm, mate, give birth etc. Residents report that the sightings began around the time of Christmas last year and but have increased progressively over the last week.

Naturally, this is causing the residents of Roddickton a great deal of inconvenience and disturbance. Since it is illegal to touch marine animals according to National regulations, residents find themselves unable to help out these stranded seals. As a result, they have to watch them suffer and starve, though harp seals can store sufficient fat in their blubber layer (thick layer of fat under the skin of all marine animals) allowing them to last for extended periods of time without eating. Authorities have confirmed that two seals were struck by cars and killed on Tuesday, 8 January 2019. The grey coat of the seals acts like camouflage on the roads and this has unfortunately led to accidents.

The reasons for the seals to be onshore are pretty straightforward. Harp seals migrate south from the Arctic every winter. Therefore, they come to the coast early during the season when there is only a little ice. However, the water freezes behind them and thus the seals get disoriented and confused and often end up finding their way to land. Scientists describe another reason could be global warming, which leads to the thinning of ice due to climate change, causing the seals to move closer to the land, to get warm or mate, when there is less ice on the coast, and end up getting stranded.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) took to Twitter to reassure the residents of Roddickton that they are working with the communities and authorities to monitor the situation and actively working on relocating the seals to local waters. They also reminded the public that it is both illegal and dangerous to try and approach or attempt to capture marine animals.

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