With blubber ‘shaking,’ 800-pound seal scoots back to sea after roadside standoff

After a 90-minute staredown with first responders and a crowd of curious onlookers on a road near the north shore of P.E.I. Sunday, an 800-pound wayward seal finally turned around and began to “hump, hump, hump” the half-kilometre or so back to sea.

It’s at least the third time police on P.E.I. have responded to a seal that made its way onto a road far from the ocean.

“They can move pretty quickly,” said Ron McConnell, president of the P.E.I. Emergency Animal Response Team, who was at the scene Saturday along with DFO officers, RCMP and Tyne Valley firefighters. 

“They sort of hump, hump, hump their way along and it’s really neat to watch them, the blubber is shaking but it’s just amazing to watch how agile these big animals are.”

Joel Edward said he was driving his daughter home from hockey along Route 12 in Birch Hill around 11 a.m. when he saw something “big and dark” on the road. After realizing it was a seal, he pulled over and called RCMP.

He left shortly after RCMP arrived.

Joel Edward says he was driving along Route 12 around 11 a.m. when he saw something ‘big and dark.’ (Laura Gallant)

McConnell said he was alerted by the Marine Animal Response Society in Halifax. When he arrived, the hooded seal was “lounging” on a snowbank on the side of the road.

“He’s a big boy, we figured between 600 and 800 pounds so we weren’t about to walk in and pick him up and carry him back to the water,” he said.

He’s a big boy, we figured between 600 and 800 pounds so we weren’t about to walk in and pick him up and carry him back to the water.​​​​​​— Ron McConnell

“We tried a couple things, tried coaxing him along with a side by side all terrain vehicle. He wasn’t impressed with that. He turned it around and gave it a bump and the operator said, “OK, never mind’ and backed up and got out of that scene.”

They decided to wait him out and eventually, the seal began to make its way through a field toward Malpeque Bay. DFO officers followed him to make sure he was OK, McConnell said.

Last month, Charlottetown police rescued a seal pup from a city street and transported it back to water in the back of a cruiser. Three days later, Queens RCMP responded to another call of a seal pup who had wandered far from the water. 

The seal eventually turned around and made its way back toward Malpeque Bay. (Laura Gallant)

According to the Marine Animal Response Society, record-low ice levels are driving the animals ashore. 

McConnell, whose group normally deals with domestic animals, said dealing with an adult male seal was a bit out of his comfort zone, but was happy to help any way he could.

“Usually it’s cats, dogs and horses and stuff and here we are with 800 pounds of marine mammal and it’s ‘OK, what do we do now?’ It’s a learning experience but it’s great that we can assist these other organizations.”

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