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Scientists Say Harp Seal Pups Are Being Affected By Climate Change

(CBS LOCAL) - Harp seals are born on ice packs in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in eastern Canada in late February and early March.

The ice packs are around the Magdalen Islands north of Nova Scotia. A once in a lifetime travel experience gives you the chance to see the pups in their natural habitat.

The pups weigh about 25 pounds at birth. They have white fur that helps them absorb sunlight and stay warm until they develop blubber. They lose their white fur when they're about three or four weeks old.

This year, there's no tour season because the ice is not thick enough to land helicopters. It's the fifth time since 2010 the season has been canceled because there wasn't enough ice pack.

"We think overall it's linked to climate change," says Fisheries and Oceans Canada Biologist Mike Hammill. "We are getting increasingly mild winters, less ice. That's why it has a negative impact on the harp seal."

Hamill says harp seals can't give birth on land, only ice. Scientists estimate within the next 50 years, the Harp seals won't have any options left in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

Hammill says, "Because either the ice won't exist or because the ice is so poor that any animal that tries to have their pups on the ice, the ice would break up and the pups would drown."

Hamill is hopeful the harp seals will eventually migrate north to Newfoundland, but it's a long way and they'll have to fight off predators including polar bears.

For more information about the seal pup expedition, you can go to Hotels Accents at The minimum package which includes a three-night hotel stay, excursion guide, helicopter ride, and all meals costs around $2,000.

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