BURIN, N.L. — A wandering seal that parked itself in front of a southern Newfoundland hospital entrance over the weekend has been returned to the water — twice.
Police say the animal crossed highways, moved through traffic and posed a "public safety issue" on Saturday before being spotted outside the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre, where it blocked an ambulance route.
RCMP were called and moved the seal to the water, but it reappeared the next day on a road not far away.
Officers liaised with federal Fisheries officials to safely return the animal to "more isolated area on the peninsula, away from any community area."
RCMP Cpl. Jolene Garland said police believe it was the same seal because of similarities in photos taken on both days it was reported.
The incident comes on the heels of another ongoing case of seals descending on a Newfoundland town, raising the complicated question of who should be responsible for safely removing the flippered guests.
The northern town of Roddickton, N.L. has been experiencing a swarm of stranded seals, with some photos showing the animals in large groups and others crawling along local streets.
The seals appear to have become trapped and are unable to return to sea due to ice freezing over, according to resident Brendon Fitzpatrick.
Garland said local RCMP have not received any complaints from residents about threats to public or animal safety, so the force has not intervened in removing the Roddickton seals.
Garland said complaints about the situation have gone through the town. Most of the sightings appear to have been around bodies of water, but police could become engaged if they receive a report of the seals causing legitimate danger.
"It wouldn't be a surprise to me if the Roddickton detachment were to get a call, for example say, if there was a herd of seals blocking the roadway," Garland said.
Residents have expressed concern the seals may be hurt by curious onlookers or by wandering into roads, but people are in a bind because it is against the law to touch or move the animals.
The Fisheries Department issued a statement saying the situation in Roddickton is being monitored and reminding people that it is illegal to disturb a marine mammal.
"Seals are wild animals that can be unpredictable, and may become aggressive in order to protect themselves. In rare cases, seals carry infections that can be passed on to humans," the statement read.
Roddickton's mayor could not be reached for comment, but VOCM News reported Tuesday that the seal situation was to be addressed at the Roddickton-Bide Arm Town Council meeting on Tuesday night.
- By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John's, N.L.