Research Document - 2012/132

Assessment of current and alternative methods for killing young grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) during commercial harvest

By P.-Y. Daoust, C. Caraguel, H. Fenton, M.O. Hammill, L.D. Roy, and J. Spears

Abstract

A small commercial hunt for 5-7 weeks old grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) occurs intermittently around the Canadian Maritime provinces and may expand in the near future.  We sought to better understand and, where possible, improve the harvesting methods of this hunt.  We compared the use of the regulation club and the regulation Canadian hakapik to effectively crush the skull of these animals under field conditions.  Both tools achieved this purpose, resulting in rapid, if not immediate, death of the animals, but a difference approaching significance was detected which suggested that the club requires fewer blows than the hakapik to crush the skulls.  We also tested the efficacy of the .17 HMR (Hornady Magnum Rimfire) rifle cartridge, an ammunition of low energy but high velocity, to quickly kill seals of this age at close range with a shot to the head.  All 12 animals studied under controlled conditions and 40 of 45 (88.9%) animals studied under field conditions died immediately or within a few seconds from a single shot.  We believe that the latter proportion can be increased further with simple modifications to the method used during the field study and that the .17 HMR rifle cartridge can be an effective tool to quickly kill young grey seals during a commercial hunt, as a possible substitute to the use of the club or hakapik.

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