Advice on seal strandings


Following recent seal strandings in the Yarmouth area which resulted in multiple 999 calls from well meaning members of the public, the Coastguard are advising on how best to deal with mammals.

If you find a live seal, watch it FROM A DISTANCE. Do not approach the animal.

Seals regularly haul out on our coasts - it is part of their normal behaviour. Therefore, finding a seal on the beach does not mean there is necessarily a problem. A healthy seal should be left well alone.

However, if there is a problem, there are a number of things coastal visitors may wish to know first:

• Abandoned? If you see a seal with a white, long-haired coat in the winter, or you see a small seal (less than 3 feet in length) alone between June and August, then it is probably still suckling from its mother. Check the sea regularly for any sign of an adult seal.

• Thin? Signs of malnutrition include visible neck and perhaps a rather baggy, wrinkled skin.

• Sick? Signs of ill health include : coughing, sneezing or noisy, rapid breathing and possibly thick mucus coming from the nose, wounds or swellings, particularly on the flippers, and possibly favouring one flipper when moving (although remember that healthy seals will often lie and hunch along on their sides) cloudy eyes, or thick mucus around them, or possibly one eye kept closed most of the time, a seal showing little response to any disturbance going on around it (although remember they could be soundly asleep)

For any member of the public who may see a seal which appears to be abandoned (if mother does not return within 24 hours), thin or ill, rather than call the emergency services, please ring (for advice and assistance)

• BDMLR hotline : 01825 765546.
• RSPCA hotline : 0870 5555999

You will receive further advice over the phone. If there is a problem with the animal, there are some important things you can do to help:

1. Provide information. Give thehotline an accurate description of the seal, its exact location (including position on the beach), how long the seal has been observed and any signs of injury. If at all possible, stay on the beach to guide the rescue team to the animal. This can save valuable and perhaps critical time. If you have a mobile, give the number to the hotline.

2. Control disturbance. Stop other people and their animals from approaching the seal, because - if it is a seal pup that is still suckling, then approaching the pup could threaten the mother-pup bond and the pup may be abandoned. Seals will react if approached too closely and are capable of inflicting a nasty bite - even the smallest pup can cause serious injury and this is even more of a risk with adults.

3. Prevent small seals from being disturbed and forced into the sea. Stand between a pup and the sea and, if necessary, use a board or similar object to restrain it. Under no circumstances, attempt this with adult seals, as you could leave yourself open to injury. You should avoid handling a seal pup at all costs, for the same reason. Under no circumstances allow anybody to push the seal back in the sea. A pup still suckling is a poor swimmer and an older animal may be hauled out for good reason

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