We’re preparing for a long winter as the seal season approaches and pens fill up with poorly pups.
When an unexpected tidal surge hit the Norfolk coast last December more than 100 seal pups were left injured and stranded. We were called in to help rescue the orphaned pups and bring them back to full health.
The number of seals we took in jumped by 61 per cent in 2013 from 170 to 273. As the winter months begin we have already admitted dozens of pups meaning space for more is running low.
Our four wildlife centres see hundreds of common and grey seals each year and we are expecting this year to be no different. It costs around £22 a week to feed each seal and many are expected to be in our care for up to five months.
Our centre in Somerset is already almost full with pups and if storms like last year hit our centres will be pushed to the limit.
Our East Winch centre in Norfolk had 108 seal pups in its care after a tidal surge hit the north Norfolk coastline in December of 2013. The influx of pups was the largest staff had seen in the centre’s 25 year history.
They need special care
The seal pups were so young they needed special care and one-to-one feeding by stomach tubing every three hours to survive.
Our East Winch centre manager Alison Charles said:
“Winter typically brings on stormy weather which can cause huge welfare problems for seals and their pups. If we experience the same kind of storm battering as we did last year then it will be tough.
“The 108 pups we took in really stretched us because they required a lot of intensive care. We really couldn’t have managed without the staff and volunteers’ good will and doing extra shifts to make sure the pups were fed. They were vital.
A real marathon
“The rehabilitation of seal pups is a real marathon. It can take months for them to become fighting fit and healthy enough to be released back into the wild.
“Space really was tight last year and our existing cubicles had to house four or five seals rather than the usual two. Other animals had to be housed in makeshift pens in other areas of the hospital so that we could make room for as many animals as possible. We had swans in the operating theatre and hedgehogs in the visitor centre. There were animals everywhere!
“We had so many come in to us in such a vulnerable state all at the same time it was a mammoth task. The level of care is so full on. It took a lot of hard work to get them through such a difficult time and we couldn’t have done it without the public’s help.”
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