Leave seal pups alone

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I would like to respond to the letter about the stranded seal pup at Newbiggin Bay (News Post Leader, August 14).

I lead a local project to monitor wild dolphins in and around Newbiggin Bay and witnessed the swimmer trying to return the pup to the water. This was a big mistake.

The advice of the British Divers Marine Mammal Rescue Service is that in these kind of circumstances the seal pup should be left well alone unless it is clearly in some kind of danger.

Whilst it might appear cute and adorable and a magnet for children on the beach, the reality is it is a wild animal.

It was most likely left in this location whilst its mother went foraging for food – sea salmon/trout have been in high numbers in the bay this year.

We also have a resident population of common seals at Newbiggin and Church Point peninsula and this pup most likely belonged to them.

Whilst the swimmer may have tried to put the pup back in the water with good intentions, the problem was the tide was coming in and the pup was just being swept back to shore by the current.

It was clear it did not know where to go and would quickly become exhausted under such conditions.

The beach was its safe haven whilst its parents were foraging.

In addition the human contact could have put the animal at further risk.

If anyone does come across an apparently stranded seal pup like this, or other marine mammals such as dolphins, whales or otters, you can get 24/7 advice what to do from the Marine Mammal Rescue Service who work alongside organisations like the RSPCA and HM Coastguard and who have the expertise via a national team of volunteer medics to deal with these kinds of situations.

Their contact details are: www.bdmlr.org.uk/index.php and rescue hotline (01825) 765546 during office hours and 07787 433412 out of office hours.

In all likelihood the seal pup survived but we just do not know.

If it was crying out this is perfectly normal and just its way to let its mother know where it is.

There have been many reports of such strandings up and down the east coast this year and is possibly related to the impact of the winter storms on deeper sea fishing for these creatures so they have necessarily had to forage closer to shore.

It could also be the impact of warmer sea temperatures this year.

Either way, the advice is to leave well alone unless the animal is clearly injured, in which case immediate advice is available via the rescue hotline.

Dr Ivor Clark

NE Wild Dolphin Monitoring Project

Newbiggin-by-the-Sea