Save our seals
THIS winter has been a record for the grey seal colony at Horsey with more than 1,800 pups being born. But the spread of seals down the coast to Winterton has also brought its fair share of problems.
Because, while the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures in their natural environment is a huge attraction for nature lovers, there have also been some stunning examples of stupid behaviour from people.
Part of it has been down to the selfie culture with some going right up to these adorable, limpid-eyed bundles of fur to grab a picture, unaware or simply not caring that they are endangering the pup's life. Last week four dead pups were found on the beach and wardens believe human or canine interference rather than recent storms could be responsible.
Grey seal pups are totally reliant on their mothers for the first three weeks of their lives, being fed milk that is more than 50 per cent fat. Unlike common seal pups they can't swim because their distinctive white coats are not waterproof, so they have to stay on the beach where they are vulnerable to predators and being trampled by aggressive bull seals. After their mothers finally have to return to the sea so they can feed, the pups are left for up to two weeks before they lose their baby fur and can head for the water.
Many pups don't make it though their first year and up to 15 per cent die even before they have a chance to leave the beach. Mothers separated from their babies before they have the opportunity to learn their smell or call won't allow them to feed and humans getting too close to pups for that special picture, or dogs being allowed to molest them, can lead to them being abandoned.
Humans risk nasty bites leading to infected wounds and a condition known to divers as seal finger. Untreated it can result in conditions like septic arthritis.
There's no doubt seeing nature in the raw, without the filter of a TV screen, bars or barriers is a huge attraction at both Horsey and Winterton, but it's no excuse for leaving basic common sense at home.
The beach is the seals' home and the animals that live there are not tame, no matter how cute and cuddly they look. Amazingly, the volunteer seal wardens, who monitor the colony and try to give the seals a measure of protection, have dealt with people who are under the mistaken impression that it is in fact some kind of zoo.
NOTE: If you see a pup in distress and there are no seal wardens around please call the RSPCA 24hr emergency line on 0300 1234 999.