Photogenic ‘smiling’ seal spotted on N.L beach dies, prompts DFO warning

SALMON COVE, N.L. — What began as a unique photo opportunity ended in sadness last week, as a young harp seal died just a couple of days after it charmed spectators on the shores of a popular Newfoundland beach.

Leona Rockwood went to Salmon Cove Sands on the Avalon Peninsula early Labour Day morning to take some pictures of the sunrise, but was delighted to instead find the marine mammal napping on the beach.

She says the animal was very calm, occasionally raising his whiskered head and appearing to smile as she took her shots from several feet away.

Media reports indicate that later in the day, more beach-goers came to see the seal, and one woman even posted a video of herself on Facebook petting the creature.

The seal was found dead on Wednesday, and while a necropsy has yet to be performed, Fisheries and Oceans Canada research scientist Garry Stenson says he doesn’t seem to have any external injuries.

But he stresses that it’s illegal to disturb a marine mammal, saying that getting too close or touching it can scare the animal or cause it to lash out.

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