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Harp seals in Kamouraska arouse astonishment

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A group of harp seals was seen off the coast of Saint-Denis, in Kamouraska.

  • Shanelle Guérin (View profile)Shanelle Guérin

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Residents of Saint-Denis -de La Bouteillerie, in Kamouraska, were able to see last week a large group of harp seals abnormally close to the shore. Their presence caused astonishment on social networks. However, several colonies of seals spend the winter in the estuary year after year.

Unlike the common and gray seals that can be observed in the summer in the St. Lawrence estuary, the harp seal goes the opposite way during this time of year, specifies the general director of the Marine Mammal Observation Network, Esther Blier. In summer, it prefers the cold waters of the Arctic, off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. In winter, it is the ice in the estuary that attracts it.

The population of harp seals that visits Eastern Quebec every winter is that of the Northwest Atlantic. In the summer, this herd hangs out, among other places, around the Magdalen Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

What is out of the ordinary this winter is the behavior of the animal, due to the low ice cover on the St. Lawrence. The harp seal seeks out the ice floe to rest, to molt and to mate. What is special this year […] is the fact that there is little ice, so we can observe it much closer to the banks of the St. Lawrence, explains Ms. Blier. It is more visible to local residents than usual.

The different seals look for a solid place, out of the water, to rest. The less ice there is, the closer it gets to the shores, adds the manager.

Loading in progressAll safe and sound, the passengers of flight JAL516 speak of a “miracle”

ELSE ON INFO: All safe and sound, the passengers of flight JAL516 speak of a “miracle”

During its weeks in the estuary, it will take the opportunity to eat a variety of fish and reproduce. Later this winter, harp seals will move to the Gulf to give birth.

Last week, the same herd was also seen off Pointe Park in Rivière-du-Loup.

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Esther Blier advises everyone to keep a good distance if they observe a seal near the shore and to attach her dog during a walk on the beach.

Seals are there to rest and carry out biological activities important for their survival, so it's important to keep your distance so as not to disturb them, warns -she.

In all, four different species of seal visit the waters of the St. Lawrence. There are the common seal, which has a head resembling a dog, the gray seal, whose head resembles that of a horse, the harp seal, which has large black spots, as well as the red seal. hood, which is differentiated by the hump on its head.

The hooded seal spends the winter in the Gulf and very rarely visits the x27;estuary during the summer.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates the population of harp seals in the North Atlantic West to 7.4 million people.

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