Sealed off! Big freeze strands animals in town

Police returned this seal to the sea after giving it a lift in the back of a truck. Pic Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Having the officers in town is a relief, Fitzgerald said, because they can respond much more quickly when a seal ends up by a home or business, or if one gets on a roadway.

"They've been saying let nature take its course, but it's been nearly a week", she said. "If they could find their way out, they would have found their way already".

The seals appear to have become trapped and are unable to return to sea due to ice freezing over, according to resident Brendon Fitzpatrick.

A group of 40 of the animals travelling together is not unusual, Stenson said - he's seen groups with as few as six seals and as many as a thousand.

The BBC reported that the animals became stuck in Roddickton-Bide Arm after the town's bay and surrounding water froze over.

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

"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.

Two of the animals have died after being struck by a auto and there are concerns others will starve to death.

On Wednesday, the town called on the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to send more assistance.

This year, he says, limited ocean ice might be forcing the seals to settle for coastal ice, which increases their risk of stranding.

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

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

The Fisheries Department issued a statement saying the situation in Roddickton is being monitored and reminding people that it is illegal to disturb a marine mammal. Fitzgerald said a plane from St. John's will fly over the area to assess the situation beyond the town once weather permits. "However, a seal is a wild animal that should not be approached or touched". Fitzgerald says residents will be able to call in seal sightings and have officials transport the animals back out to safety. "Nobody wants to see any animal suffer".

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