Friday, February 03, 2006

Seal carnage that has nothing to do with sealing

Storm surge sweeps newborn seals to their death
Last Updated Thu, 02 Feb 2006 10:05:08 EST
CBC News
Hundreds of dead seal pups are expected to wash up on the shores of Nova Scotia in the aftermath of a severe winter storm.

A major storm surge on Wednesday swept scores of grey seal pups that had just been born on Pictou Island out to sea, where they drowned.

The adult seals came ashore on Pictou Island to give birth because there is little ice in the strait.
Jane MacDonald, one of the 18 people who live on the island year round, watched in horror as the adult seals tried desperately to save their pups.

"The mothers just push them and push them with their nose, and they dive back under and push them back up, and they get back into the tide wash, and then a big wave will hit and just sweep them back out to sea," she said.

A small part of the herd made it to higher ground, MacDonald said, but hundreds of seal pups were washed away.

Grey seals prefer to give birth on ice floes. But with little ice in the strait this year, the estimated herd of 2,000 moved ashore to Pictou Island.

FROM FEB. 1, 2006: Seals give birth onshore because of ice shortage
Gerry Conway, an adviser on marine mammals for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said newborn pups are still too weak to swim.

"I would anticipate we will see indications of high mortality of these seal pups over the next week or two as they wash ashore," he said. "Some of them will not show up, of course, but a lot of them will show up along the beaches of Nova Scotia."

Conway said such incidents are rare but happen from time to time.

The grey seal population will not be significantly affected, he said, noting 40,000 are on Sable Island.

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