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Cause of death remains a mystery for harbour seal washed ashore in Maple Bay

The carcass of a harbour seal that washed ashore last week in Maple Bay generated plenty of questions on how it died.

The presence of numerous circular marks around its head, neck and upper body immediately raised suspicions that it had been shot multiple times.

But marine mammal experts consulted by weren’t convinced after looking at photos.

The circles may be ulcers associated with trauma or a viral or bacterial infection. One biologist even wondered if the seal had been bitten by a killer whale.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada had planned to collect the carcass Monday morning for further analysis — but it went out to sea with the high tide Saturday evening.

In death, seals can yield important information about the health of the marine ecosystem.

If you find a marine mammal call 1-800-465-4336 — or notify me at and I’ll contact authorities directly.

But make sure you and your pets stay clear of the carcass.

In September, authorities announced that avian flu had been detected in harbour seals in Washington State.

The US government warned: "HPAI is a 'zoonotic disease’ that has the potential to spread between animals and people (and their pets). Although the risk of infection to the general public remains low, beachgoers should not touch live or dead seals or allow pets to approach seals."

(Thanks to Maple Bay resident Mickael Plourde for raising public awareness about this particular seal.)

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— Larry Pynn, Oct. 16, 2023


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