Animals' Voice guide to seal encounters

1 August 2023

Unknown to many, the UK is one of the most populous countries regarding seal populations. From the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales, the northern English Northumberland coast to the seas of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall, Atlantic and Common seals can be spotted along the coastlines.

Seals are familiar beach visitors, and seeing them for the first time can be exciting. In fact, they spend more time outside the water than in it.

As we venture to the beaches and the coastline in the summer months, there are several vital facts to know in case you come across a seal or even a seal pup. They are best viewed from afar, ideally with binoculars or your camera. Their sense of smell is immense,

If you spot one on the beach, the best way is to watch them downwind and keep at least ten metres apart. It is also essential to keep quiet and speak as quietly as possible and avoid eye contact with them. It can set off the flight or fight mode for seals.

A disturbed seal can become a danger to itself. Typically, they rush back to the sea, which can cause injury to themselves. If a seal panics, they tend to lose energy quicker, too and increased stress levels can also make them more suspectable to predators.

Dog bites are a leading cause of injuries to seals; therefore, keeping your dog in control and on the lead is imperative to avoid unnecessary confrontation and injuries.

Taking home your rubbish at the end of the day is also a critical step to help protect the plastic from entering the ocean and becoming entangled, increasing the likelihood of an injury.

The pupping season tends to happen in the later autumn and winter months; therefore, it's a great time to view seals as they enter the subsequent phases of their lives. Seal pups only stay with their mothers for three weeks, and during this time, you must not disturb them as it may cause the seals to abandon their young. Seals are easily disturbed and startled, and they won't hesitate to rush into the water if they feel threatened and can even trample their own young.

A distressed or injured seal should be reported to the RSPCA, or the British Divers Marine Rescue, who specialise in seal rescue; taking note of the location is vital.