INJURIES suffered by a grey seal named after TV favourite Sir David Attenborough have prompted Winterton beach owners to say flying rings are no longer welcome.
The seal released today was rescued by wardens earlier this year because the ring-style toy had become stuck and embedded in his neck. He was one of several seals from the Horsey colony to have been injured that way and at first it was feared he would not survive.
Now three landowners at Winterton, where Sir David was caught, have said that although a complete ban would be difficult to police, they don't want to see flying rings on their stretches of beach.
The bull seal underwent weeks of treatment at the RSPCA's East Winch hospital where he was given salt baths to help heal his gaping wounds. Today a crowd of well-wishers, including pupils from Winterton School were on the beach to welcome him back to his natural environment.
"It's a nice feeling - a sense of achievement," said chairman of the Friends of Horsey Seals Peter Ansel. "He will be fighting fit now and ready to take his chances in November in the mating season."
People had spotted the seal's predicament weeks before he was eventually captured. But every time the volunteer wardens from the Friends attempted to catch him he managed to get away and into the water. One day in early April he was seen fast asleep among a group of other seals. The wardens managed to sneak up on him and by the time he awoke it was too late and he was in the net.
It took six of them to carry him off the beach and he was then transported to East Winch where the embedded flying ring was cut off and his infection was treated.
Peter explained seals were very curious and ready to poke their noses into whatever attracted their interest. But their flippers faced backwards so they couldn't use them to push things like flying rings or nets off. "If anything gets round their necks when they are adolescent and they can't get it off, then as they grow it is almost self-strangulation," he said.
He urged anyone who was using a flying ring to make sure they were nowhere near the shoreline so it couldn't be caught by the wind and dumped in the water.
The original Sir David Attenborough, the voice of many critically acclaimed natural history series including The Blue Planet, has called for the world to cut down on its use of plastic because of the damage it is doing to the marine environment.
The Friends of Horsey Seals, who watch over the colony, are looking for more wardens to join their ranks, particularly in the Winterton area where around 250 pups were born last winter. They are needed because, unlike Horsey, where there are roped off viewing areas and people can be kept away from the wild animals, seal pups are often found off the beach and in the dunes.
"We are desperately looking for a lot more wardens," he said. They would then be able to mingle and be on hand to offer advice and information to visitors.
Anyone wanting to find out more can visit friendsofhorseyseals.co.uk