1/31/2020

A 29-year-old man from the Magdalen Islands had to be airlifted to a hospital after he was attacked by a 226 kilogram (500 pound) seal on Tuesday.

Alexis Boudreault was flown from Nova Scotia’s Pictou Island, where the attack occurred, to a hospital in Charlottetown, where he received 26 stitches. He was able to return home two days later.

Boudreault was out on a seal hunting expedition with several others and armed with a hakapik — a club with a hammer head and hook, designed for seal hunting.

His weapon was confiscated by agents from the Fisheries and Oceans Canada because it was not up to code.

The captain of the expedition, Denis Éloquin, said they were told that the length of their hakapiks did not conform to the standard.

So Éloquin took a rowboat back to their ship anchored off-shore to make the modifications.

That’s when the grey seal charged at Boudreault standing on the shore.

“Since he had nothing to defend himself, his first reflex was to run away,” Éloquin said, “but he fell because the seal caught his leg.”

Éloquin said he had no doubt that if Boudreault had his hakapik, he would have been able to fight the animal off.

Two other hunters, who did have hakapiks, were near Boudreault at the time of the attack, but were unable to intervene in time.

While Éloquin acknowledges that seals get aggressive during the mating season, he said he had never seen an attack like this in 45 years of seal hunting.

He said it feels like the government is more concerned with protecting the seals than the seal hunters.

“We don’t have the right to firearms. All you have is the hakapik,” he said. “You break your hakapik, your first reflex is to run and get another.”

The mayor of the Magdalen Islands, Jonathan Lapierre, said lots of work has been done to minimize the animals’ suffering, but said the government should also pay attention to the conditions seal hunters are operating in.

“In recent years, we have done a lot to protect the seals, with probably thought of the hunters too little,” Lapierre said.

Éloquin believes government officials could have let them off with a warning, rather than taking their weapons and leaving Boudreault unarmed.

“He could have said, ‘Look, it’s okay, but next time make sure it’s up to code.'”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not responded to Radio-Canada’s request for comment.

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