Officials from Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DPO) told the newspaper The Northern Pen that there is little offshore ice near northeastern Newfoundland this year, possibly part of the overall trend of major Arctic melting.
The small Canadian town of Roddickton-Bide Arm is teeming with dozens of seals that have wandered inland after winter weather cut off their access to the ocean.
Canadian law states that it is illegal for the public to interfere with marine mammals. It is relatively unusual to find a group of that size on shore, he said, but not unheard of.
"They're pitiful to look at". "A week ago, we woke up. we have two little brooks in town - they were full of seals". DFO has returned individual seals to open water in the past.
A seal is shown in a handout photo from Marystown RCMP.
"They're looking around now to try and determine exactly how many seals are there, both in that area as well as in surrounding areas, and whereabouts they are", he said.
The group of seals are becoming hungry, exhausted and are crying out, says Fitzgerald. Two seals were killed after being hit by a vehicle.
Police in Roddickton-Bide Arm, Newfoundland, have confirmed that at least two of the 40 or so animals to have become cut off have died - many likely hit by cars.
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The seals appear to have become trapped and are unable to return to sea due to ice freezing over, according to resident Brendon Fitzpatrick.
Sheila Fitzgerald, the mayor of the Atlantic coastal town, also expressed concern for the well-being of the harp seals.
"They're so cute", she said, noting that the story had "stolen the hearts of so many people".
"For animals to be going into bays and then to be caught up by the freeze is not that common, though it's happened before", said Stenson.
"From the point of view of the animals actually starving, it's not super-urgent", he said.
Recent reports from people in the area indicate that the number of seals may be lower than believed, Slaney said, closer to 20 or even fewer.
- By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John's, N.L.