DFO believes the seals may have been killed during a recent weekend storm
By René J. Roy
MACDOUGALLS – Dead seals on a local beach aren’t new, but there’s not usually a lot of them washing up at once. That changed a little over a week ago on MacDougall’s Beach.
A popular summer spot, the small, scenic community is normally awash with rocks and sand, with the occasional driftwood washups. However, upon a visit last week, there were a total of eight seal carcasses rotting along the southern end of the beach.
One resident who wished to remain unidentified said this number of dead seals was quite unusual.
“Normally you might see the odd one here and there, but this many is strange.”
The resident also stated a few days before there were far more carcasses on the beach, at one point over 15, including a porpoise that had likely washed back out to sea.
Ryan Critch, Science and Communications advisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada stated in an email that while the department did not receive any calls about the carcasses, they dispatched a Fisheries officer to investigate after being alerted by media inquiries.
“A Fishery Officer visited the area and counted eight dead seals on the beach,” wrote Critch. “It is common for seals to wash up onshore with no heads throughout the province at this time of year. It’s likely the seals recently found at MacDougall’s Beach were killed during the storm this past weekend. (March 12-13). Our seal scientist identified the seals as a mix of adult and young Harp seals.”
The seals were in various stated of decomposition, with all of them missing their heads.
According to Critch, “When a seal begins decomposition, it tends to begin at the neck. The skull is heavy, compared to the body and encased in fat, so the neck often breaks. Scavengers also focus on openings—the mouth, eyes, etc. and therefore, the heads are the first areas eaten.”