July 20, 2015: Long whiskers appear on the water surface; a bearded seal startles a photographer at the marina in the town of La Baie on the Saguenay. The animal was reported to Marine Mammals Emergencies, as it is far from its documented range. Indeed, bearded seals are not regularly seen in the St. Lawrence. They live in the cold waters of the Arctic and Subarctic seas. The bearded seal feeds by rummaging around the seabed to find shrimp, clams, small fish and octopuses. Its long whiskers serve as antennae to locate prey in the sediment. It probes about the silt with its snout and sucks up the soft bodies of mollusks. Bearded seals are often observed on ice floes and flat icebergs.
In 2013, a bearded seal remained for several months in the Saint-Maurice River, in the Mauricie region. The Marine Mammal Emergencies team, assisted by volunteers, followed the comings and goings of this large seal, which can weigh up to 300-400 kg, and which was often found on a beach frequented by locals. As this animal normally lives in salt water, a prolonged stay in fresh water can trigger health issues. In 2008, a seal of the same species stayed for a few days at the Sillery marina. It was caught and transferred back to the Estuary, but it was back in the Québec City area just a few days later! In 2013, a young bearded seal was also seen in Lévis, Saint-Romuald, Sillery and Beaumont.