A bearded seal was caught on camera roaming around a marina in Laval on Tuesday. A June 23 video shows the seal gingerly moving along a dock at the Bo-Bi-No marina, which overlooks the Mille Îles River. Such a sighting would have been almost unimaginable a short time ago — when few ocean creatures were visiting the fresh waters around Montreal — but then a humpback whale was spotted swimming around the city this month.
The whale, which swam past Quebec and Trois Rivières on its way to Montreal in late May, captured the hearts of many residents who flocked to the Old Port to see it leap and play in the current.
Then the young whale’s incredible journey was cut short by tragedy when it was killed in a collision, according to researchers.
The Groupe de recherche et d'éducation sur les mammifères marins (GREMM) is taking a number of steps to ensure this latest unusual visitor is kept safe.
Photos and videos of the creature have been sent to seal specialists at the University of Montreal's Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the organization said in a statement.
Posters have been put up in and around the Bo-Bi-No marina, asking people to stay at least 50 metres away from the animal.
The seal is probably a juvenile exploring new territory, said the statement, which goes on to state that the creature will have no problem surviving in freshwater — in fact some of the only freshwater seals in the world live in Quebec’s Nunavik region.
However, people are being asked to avoid feeding the seal, which, in addition to being illegal, can be harmful.
"Even if the intention is laudable, you risk making him sick, killing him or getting him used to the presence of humans and putting him at even greater risk of an incident," said the statement.
"The seal can feed itself and must continue to do so."
If the seal sticks around too long, is frequently harassed, or gets too close to moving boats, officials might consider relocating it, though capturing and moving the large aquatic creature could be a risky proposition for both humans and animals, said the statement.
A seal sighting in the St. Lawrence is not unusual, according to the GREMM.
Hooded and harp seals are regular residents of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as well as off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador.
But this is a bearded seal. The species usually resides in and around the Arctic Ocean, though the Quebec Marine Mammal Emergency Network (RQUMM) does receive reports of this species in the St. Lawrence.
In 2013, a bearded seal was observed in the Saint-Maurice river near Trois-Rivières.
Researchers concluded that it was eating well and it eventually left by itself. Since then, the appearance of a bearded seal in the Trois-Rivières area has been an annual occurrence.