Seals very often haul out at low tide to rest until the tide returns, so not every seal on land is in need of rescue. Lying on one side and waving one flipper in the air, making a ‘banana’ shape and barking at people who get too close, or just dozing, are completely natural behaviours and not a cause for concern. Tear stains beneath a seal’s eyes are a good sign – seals lack the ducts that re-circulate tears and so they seem to cry continuously and this shows that they are well hydrated.
Pups are often left on the beach and their mothers will usually come out to suckle them at high tide, so it is important not to touch them as their mother may desert them. Young grey seal pups are born in the Autumn and Winter and although they may seem abandoned, they will not enter the sea until 3-4 weeks old once they are weaned and need to find their own food. Harbour seal pups, born from June to September, can swim within a few hours and so may be in and out of the water regularly.
Disease, parasitic infection, wounds and netting can often be a problem and some seals may suffer from these. Young pups may become separated from their mothers after a storm or spring tide (when the high and low tides have the greatest variance) and so will become undernourished very quickly.
If you think a seal is ill or distressed, then call British Divers Marine Life Rescue for advice and assistance. If you can send some photographs from your mobile phone then they will give you a number or email address to send them to.
British Divers Marine Life Rescue who will give you advice and assistance. If you can send some photographs from your mobile phone then they will give you a number or email address to send them to.
Do not pick the seal up – observe it from a safe distance
Do not chase it back in the sea – try to stand between it and the sea until help arrives
Look for signs of injury and provide an accurate description of these, the size and species (if known) and location of the animal to BDMLR
Keep other people and dogs away – these can cause stress to the animal. Seals also carry infections that can be transferred
Avoid inhaling the seal’s breath and stay away from their head as they can inflict nasty bites
Photo by Keith Luke on Unsplash
Photo by Phil Botha on Unsplash
Or call into the Coastwatch Beach Pavilion Office and report what you have seen, not only can they send someone to the area, but they can keep it clear and safe not only for the public but for the arriving medics. They will also make sure BDMLR HQ has been informed.