The Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales gives useful advice on what to do if you see a seal on a beach.

If you find a live seal:

Watch it from a distance. Do not approach the animal. Seals regularly haul out on our coasts – it is part of their normal behaviour and in fact they spend more time out of the water, digesting their food and resting. Therefore, finding a seal on the beach does not necessarily mean there is a problem and they should not be chased back into the sea as this may stop them from doing what they need to do – rest. A healthy seal should be left well alone.

After stormy weather and high tides, it is usual for seals to come out onto beaches to rest and re-gather their strength.  Many do not need first aid but it is important to control disturbance by stopping other people and their animals from approaching the seal.

Grey Seal

However, if there is a problem, there are a number of things you may see:

  • Abandoned: If you see a seal with a white, long-haired coat in the autumn/winter, or you see a small seal (less than 3 feet in length) alone between June and August, then it is probably still suckling from its mother. Check the sea regularly for any sign of an adult seal
  • Thin: Signs of malnutrition include visible ribs, hips and neck and perhaps a rather baggy, wrinkled skin
  • Sick: Signs of ill health include coughing, sneezing or noisy, rapid breathing and possibly thick mucus coming from the nose; wounds or swellings, particularly on the flippers, and possibly favouring one flipper when moving (although remember that healthy seals will often lie and ‘hunch along’ on their sides); cloudy eyes, or thick mucus around them, or possibly one eye kept closed most of the time; a seal showing little response to any disturbance going on around it (although remember they could be soundly asleep)

Report a sick or abandoned seal to your local or national animal or marine life rescue charity


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