The RSPCA has issued urgent advice to the public about what to do if they see a struggling seal on a beach – after “well-meaning” members of the public returned one to waters in Pembrokeshire.
RSPCA Cymru’s plea follows the rescue of the moulted grey seal pup from Castlemartin beach in Pembroke on Wednesday (25 September).
The rescue of the seal was completed by Welsh Marine Life Rescue (WMLR). It is understood the pup was one they had earlier sought to rescue at Freshwater West; only for it to have been returned to the sea by members of the public before professional rescuers were able to reach the animal. The pup later then washed up at Castlemartin.
Fortunately, the seal is now in the care of the RSPCA and is receiving urgent rehabilitation and care at the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Somerset. However, a “long period of recovery” is ahead as the pup is in very poor body condition and is struggling with a bad infection.
She is also dangerously underweight – weighing only 11kg (approx 1st 10lbs); when a pup of her age should be hitting the scales at between 30kg and 50kg.
The RSPCA have urged members of the public not to chase or move seals found on the beach into the water – as it is highly likely they have “headed to the beach for a reason” and are in need of help.
Ideally, lone seal pups looking fit and healthy should be monitored from a safe distance for 24 hours. If a seal pup is injured or in distress, the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line should be contacted on 0300 1234 999.
RSPCA animal collection officer (ACO) Ellie West said: “Sadly, we fear a seal pup rescued by our friends at Welsh Marine Life Rescue had earlier been put back into the sea by well-meaning but misguided members of the public.
“Many well-meaning people think they are helping lone pups by moving them into the water – but nothing could be further from the truth. They have usually headed to the beach for a reason, and are often in desperate need of veterinary care or support.
“We’re so grateful to WMLR, who do incredible work with us in looking out for seals. This moulted grey pup is now in our care – and was obviously in urgent need of help. She’s badly underweight, in poor condition and struggling with an infection.
“RSPCA Cymru is so grateful to Wales Marine Life Rescue, who do incredible work in looking out for seals. This pup is now in our care – and was obviously in urgent need of help so is facing a long period of recovery.
“It’s not unusual to see a seal pup by itself, as their mothers will leave the pups alone very early on in life. If you find a seal pup that looks fit and healthy and shows no signs of distress, monitor it first from a safe distance for 24 hours.
“However, if the mother doesn’t return after 24 hours or the pup appears distressed, injured or unwell, or is on a busy public beach, our 24-hour emergency line can be reached on 0300 1234 999. Please always stay at a safe distance and keep dogs well away – seals can have a very nasty bite.”
The season for seal rescues is only a few weeks old, but since 31 August, seven grey seals in the South and West Wales area have already come into the care of the RSPCA. The charity has attended approximately two-dozen calls, including rescues, giving advice and calls where no seal could be located.
ACO West added: “We’re so proud of our work to rescue and rehabilitate seals, and this is always a huge issue for us and other partnership agencies in South and West Wales.
“Our ultimate aim is the successful release of all wild animals back to the wild – and it’s always so, so rewarding returning seals to where they belong.”
For more information about what to do if you’re concerned about a seal pup, please visit the RSPCA’s website.