Nova Scotia

Lending a flipper: Large seal removed from Dartmouth's Shubie Park

A large seal was found in Shubie Park near the off-leash dog area on Saturday. It was eventually sedated, removed in a truck and released back into the ocean.

The seal was found in a parking lot early Saturday morning

A large male grey seal was found in Dartmouth's Shubie Park on Saturday morning. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

After a long journey inland, one curious marine mammal is back home with a reason to seal-ebrate.

Officials responded to reports of a large seal at Shubie Park around 7 a.m. Saturday.

Halifax police said a citizen found the seal in the parking lot of the park's off-leash dog area.

Andrew Reid of the Marine Animal Response Society confirmed it was a grey seal and a male.

Halifax police were on scene to keep the public from getting too close to a large grey seal at Shubie Park on Saturday morning. There is an off-leash area for dogs near to where the seal was located. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Officers blocked off sections around the seal to make sure park users and their dogs didn't get too close to the 272-kilogram animal, according to a release.

When the report first came in, police thought there must have been a mistake and the seal was actually at Point Pleasant Park, since the Halifax park is actually on the ocean.

"How it ... found its way through there from the ocean — I think that's going to be a mystery for a little bit," said Staff Sgt. Mo Chediac of the Halifax Regional Police.

Staff of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, paramedics, Hope for Wildlife and the Marine Animal Response Society joined in the effort to remove the seal.

Eventually, yellow police tape surrounded the seal's area. Throughout the day, officials kept the seal from moving away or into any nearby water. 

Chediac said it's "definitely uncommon" for Halifax police to get calls of seals being so far inland, but it was important to remain on scene all day to ensure all humans and animals stayed safe.

"It drew quite a significant crowd throughout the day. A lot of people were there to see [it], which is kind of rare. I mean, how often do you see a 600-pound seal in a parking lot?" he said. 

Due to the seal's size, Chediac said it took most of the day for the experts to figure out how they could safely remove it from the park. Luckily, Chediac said the seal appeared "pretty docile and chill" most of the time.

A veterinarian also joined the team, and around 2:30 p.m. the seal was tranquillized so it could be moved safely.

Crews responded to Shubie Park on Saturday morning to handle a large seal. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

The seal was loaded onto a stretcher, and a large group of officials placed the animal in the back of a marine response society truck. 

Halifax police said the seal was safely "reunited with the ocean" and released at Eastern Passage.

Hope Swinimer of Hope for Wildlife said the marine animal group often takes the lead in these situations since it has the licences and expertise to move marine animals.

But she wasn't necessarily surprised to hear about a seal ending up at Shubie.

"Seals travel inland, sometimes over the land, long distances, and I'm assuming he may [have] come down through the locks," Swinimer said Saturday about a possible route through the Shubenacadie Canal. "I knew he'd have a hard time getting back."

The seal is carried from the park and was later returned to the ocean. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

She said seals often follow fish from the ocean into freshwater lakes and rivers and can get themselves "into trouble."

Swinimer said she's heard of seals popping up in Porters Lake, while people on social media noted that a seal was spotted in the Shubenacadie River last year. Earlier this week, one was seen on a dock on Fletchers Lake in Fall River.

"They usually can figure out a way out. But I would think in this particular case, it would have been incredibly difficult for him to get out," Swinimer said.

Following the fish

Reid said it is unlikely the seal came from Halifax harbour.

"He probably got into the lake and canal system, possibly from the Bay of Fundy, and had worked his way through the various lakes and rivers and ended up in Shubie Park," he said.

He thinks the seal might have followed seasonal fish, perhaps gaspereau, and found himself far from home.

Reid said the seal was probably exhausted by the time he got to the parking lot and wouldn't have been able to make it back to a body of water on his own.

It is possible that this could be the same seal that was spotted in Fletchers Lake, Reid said.

The seal was released in Eastern Passage. A local boat operator there monitored the seal's progress.

"He did see it swim along and eventually haul out onto a secluded beach, so that's a good sign," said Reid.

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