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How do you catch a wild seal? After bizarre invasion, this N.L. town is finding out





They’re wide-eyed, whiskered and adorably fuzzy, but the seals swarming a northern Newfoundland town have officially worn out their welcome, according to the town’s mayor.

“I think a week’s stay at the all-inclusive resort here in Roddickton-Bide Arm is long enough,” said Sheila Fitzgerald. “It’s time for them to move back to the wild and have a long winter, happily eating fish from the ocean.”

The flippered foragers first showed up in the town last weekend and have since been spotted on roads, at local businesses and even in backyards.

At the end of this week, it was estimated that about 40 harp seals were in the town, stranded by a vast expanse of sea ice that made their trip back to the ocean a little too long.

Beep, beep! (Brendon FitzPatrick/Twitter)

DFO officials arrived on Thursday to help out and, as of 8:30 p.m. Saturday, eight seals had been scooped up and taken to Englee. They were released into the water, Fitzgerald said.

“Hopefully, by Monday, we can report that we are 40 seal residents fewer,” she said, adding that it would be nice for residents to be able to let their dogs out without worrying there would be a large, hungry marine mammal waiting for them.

Fitzgerald said there were signs they’d been “waddling” up by the town’s watershed and that DFO is keeping an eye on it. A note posted to the town’s Facebook page on Friday said extra chlorine had been added to the drinking water, just in case.

If you count seals, the population of Roddickton-Bide Arm has really boomed this past week. (Submitted)

How to scoop a seal

The seal recovery team has so far been focusing on the seals in town because they’re easy to get to, she said.

“They’re not going after the ones that are up in the woods behind the town.”

This cuddly seal doesn’t seem to suspect a thing. (Submitted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada)

Using special nets with two poles on either end, DFO officials can scoop the seals. Those two poles are then tied together and, just like that, there’s a netted seal ready for transport.

“These seals, they don’t like it when people come close and they panic and they start to bark and hiss,” Fitzgerald said. “I would say you’d have to probably be quick.”

Scooped! (Fisheries and Oceans Canada/Twitter)

Big stars

The seals have have made headlines all over the world. Fitzgerald said she’s done more than 20 interviews, fielding requests from Dublin to Australia.

“There have actually been some requests from China, I just haven’t responded yet.”

This is Fitzgerald’s second term as mayor of the small town of about 1,000 people but her first tending to a seal invasion.

“You’re taking care of anything that comes up, but I never dreamed I’d be taking care of the seals, too.”

The seals’ stay at the Roddickton-Bide Arm all-inclusive resort is over, says the town’s mayor. (Submitted)

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches





Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year





Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend





OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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