An orphaned seal pup rescued from a Llandudno beach in September has been returned to the wild after a spell in RSPCA rehabilitation.
Jon Snow – whose name was inspired by the Game of Thrones character – was weak and lethargic when he was rescued on 30 September on Penrhyn Beach, in Llandudno, North Wales, after he was seen alone and without his mother for at least three days.
The pup was only 10 days old when rescued by RSPCA inspector Andrew Broadbent, and was taken to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in Nantwich, Cheshire, where he was given his nickname.
Jon began a five-month rehabilitation process to ensure he would be strong enough to be released back into the wild.
He became a popular patient amongst staff at Stapeley Grange, and for his first few weeks he was always suckling on a towel in his cubicle, and staff ensured that he was never without one.
As he started to lost his pup fur and his teeth started to grow, Jon was moved into a pool with fellow seal Jamie, so he could socialise and get used to being in water.
On Tuesday (20 February), Jon returned to the sea for the first time since he was just days old. Three wildlife assistants from Stapeley Grange travelled to Colwyn Bay to release Jon and two other orphaned seals named Jamie and Ned.
Michelle Bite, one of the wildlife assistants who released Jon, Jamie and Ned, said: “We went to the promenade in Colwyn Bay, where we found a suitable spot for them to be returned to the sea.
“Jon and Jamie were super speedy, I’ve never seen seals move so fast – they couldn’t wait to get into the sea. Ned was more reluctant but was soon to follow.
“Once they were past their first challenge of getting past the breaking waves we could see them loving their new life in the wild. We even saw one eating something it had caught after only a couple of minutes in the water.”
Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “Releasing seals back into the wild is always a lovely moment to witness.
“The team at Stapeley spend many months working with getting the seals back to strength. Rehabilitating a seal is an expensive and long process but it is definitely worth it, especially that heartwarming moment when they are returned back to the wild.”
RSPCA officers across Wales have worked tirelessly to rescue seals throughout the season – and, in the south west and west of Wales along, more than 100 troubled seals have been collected by the charity.
Caring for seal pups is hard work, particularly in the first few weeks of them arriving at an RSPCA centre. They are fed a ‘rehydrate’ solution and then are moved onto a fish soup within 24 hours – and, to start, are fed five times a day.
Pending their size and condition, the RSPCA will start to move the pups to a diet of whole fish as soon as possible. This initially involves force feeding but slowly they get the hang of it and start to feed themselves.
As they begin to put on weight they are moved from Stapeley Grange’s isolation unit to the centre’s outside pools. They are then transferred across to the RSPCA’s East Winch wildlife centre in Norfolk for six to eight weeks, where they can socialise and start to compete for food with other pups. As soon as they weigh over 40kg they are returned to Stapeley, before being returned to the wild.
If you wish to help RSPCA Cymru rescue animals such as this, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and rely on public donations.