Public urged to report dead seals

A seal.
A seal.

NORTHUMBERLAND residents are being asked to contact a wildlife organisation if they spot a dead grey seal on the coast.

There is growing concern over an apparent rise in the number of deaths of Atlantic grey seals, but this has not been formally monitored.

As a result, Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT) is working with groups such as the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St Andrews and the Marine Management Organisation to investigate the cause of their deaths.

Some are shot off the Northumberland Coast, some are diseased and some are thought to die as a result of injuries caused by contact with ship propellers.

Should anybody find a dead seal, it would be really helpful if they could contact Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation at the Trust, on 0191 2846884 with the exact location and, if possible, a digital photo of the dead animal to help establish the cause of death.

Although a post-mortem is more accurate, this method will also be valuable and is a cost effective way of monitoring the issue.

Mr Lowe said: “This sounds like a particularly grisly project, but we think it is an extremely valuable approach that visitors to the coast can help with.

“The Trust receives random reports of dead seals from the public but we hope this will increase reporting rates and help to establish what factors have the greatest impact upon seal numbers.

“The county has a huge role to play in conserving this species and it’s important that we know what is affecting it in both positive and negative ways.”

At this time of year, grey seals are returning to the coast to give birth to their pups and, after a few weeks, these pups head off to sea to prepare to live an independent life.

However, some will turn up on beaches along the coastline as they learn to swim and feed. In circumstances such as this, their mother is usually not too far away.

As this is perfectly normal, NWT is urging members of the public who spot any young seals basking on the region’s coastline not to panic and simply leave them alone.